SOUTHAVEN, Miss. -- Eighty-four towns and cities across Mississippi have banned smoking in public places, just like Southaven did recently.
Now doctors want to extend a ban on smoking to everyplace in the state.
Southaven’s Country Skillet restaurant has always been the place where people could enjoy a cup of coffee and a smoke, but when Southaven banned smoking, smoking customers had to go somewhere else.
Fortunately, Theresa Gilliom says they still came here to eat.
”A lot of people that smoke, they just come in, eat their food, go outside, smoke, come back in and that’s it," she said.
Dozens of cities have banned smoking over the last several years, but the idea never caught on statewide. That’s why the Mississippi State Medical Association wants to force the issue and have voters speak for themselves.
The group hopes to get 50,000 or 100,000 signatures on a petition asking lawmakers to set a referendum on smoking.
Doctors say less than 25 percent of Mississippians are covered by smoke-free workplace laws, and with Mississippi having the sixth highest rate of smokers in the country, a ban would make the state healthier.
Those same doctors say a smoking ban could cut heart disease here by 25 percent.
And while Gilliom supports the local ban, she’s not sure it’s a good idea statewide.
”It would be kinda iffy, It’d be iffy because there’s a lot of smokers but it may be worth a try, it’s worth a try," she said.
Polls paid for by the medical association show statewide support for a smoking ban.
Either way, the doctors behind the bill hope they can at least get the attention of Mississippi lawmakers to take another look at taking action.