Hernando mayor pushing for Mississippi workplace smoking ban - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Hernando mayor pushing for Mississippi workplace smoking ban

(WMC-TV) - If Hernando Mayor Chip Johnson gets his way, all Mississippi workplaces will be smoke-free.

Opponents of the proposed workplace smoking ban said the government is getting nosey, but Johnson said it is about saving lives.

"We are protecting people from other people who are killing them," said Johnson.  "They don't mean to, but these people are dying."

Fresh off the heels of a trip to the Mississippi Capitol to support a bill for a smoke-free Magnolia State, Johnson said the law should change when one person's right means another's death.

"If you want to smoke, smoke.  That's your business," he said.  "But where it becomes the business of everyone else is when that smoke is affecting our lives."

Johnson said secondhand smoke has affected him tremendously.

"Both my grandfathers died from smoking," said Johnson.

Johnson said he was very close to his grandfathers.  He prompted Hernando to go smoke-free in 2007.

"What we're pushing for now is the state to go smoke-free," he said.

That may be a tough sell for casinos and 21-and-over establishments.

"When you start picking and choosing, you say, 'Well, we care about this portion of the population, but for the ones over 21, we don't care if they die from secondhand smoke inhalation or we don't care about the workers in the casinos,'" he said.

Johnson said the statistics speak for themselves.

"Last year, 510 people in Mississippi died from secondhand smoke," said Johnson.  "Not from smoking, they were killed by other people's smoke."

Since going smoke-free, Johnson said more bars and restaurants are popping up in Hernando.

"Actually, if we're serious about recruiting businesses to our state, they all have to pay health insurance premiums on their people," he said.  "And if we're a smoke-free state, guess what, the health insurance premiums are going to be lower."

Johnson added that workplace smoking is also a tax burden.

"We're spending $719 million a year in this state on smoking-related illnesses," said Johnson.  "That's $550 per household.  What do you think these people could do with an extra $550 per year?"

The smoke-free bill is now in committee in the Mississippi State Capitol.  Similar bills have died in the past when they went before the full State Legislature.

To read the Smoke-Free Mississippi poll, click here.

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