Atlanta passes smoking ban

Atlanta's City Council has approved a ban on smoking in the city's parks.

With Monday's vote, Atlanta moved closer to joining a number of its neighbors that have curbed smoking or tobacco use in parks or public places. Alpharetta, Decatur, Doraville, Douglasville, Duluth, Gainesville, Marietta and Roswell have banned smoking in public parks. Clayton, Douglas, Forsyth and Henry counties have also adopted smoking bans. .

Smoking in Atlanta will be punishable with fines of up to $1,000, six months in jail or community service. Penalties would be up to the discretion of judges.

Asked whether a citation would create a criminal record for teenagers or job-seekers who could ill afford it, a city attorney said violations would not be reported to the Georgia Crime Information Center.

Councilman Howard Shook of Buckhead, who was the lone "no" vote, said Atlanta's police department already has enough to do without worrying about people consuming a legal substance.

"I am concerned about turning our city code into a guide for preferred manners and lifestyle tips," Shook said.

Atlanta's ordinance prohibits smoking or carrying lit tobacco products in Atlanta parks. It will take effect immediately after it is signed by Mayor Kasim Reed, who supported it.

There are exceptions for Aaron's Amphitheatre at Lakewood, Park Tavern, Chastain Park Amphitheatre and the parts of Oakland Cemetery that are privately owned.

Public health activists, high-school students and representatives of the downtown businesses spoke in favor of the ban. David Wardell, an executive with the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District, said workers sometimes pick up one gallon of cigarette butts in Woodruff Park in a single shift.

Cigar aficionados and libertarians said Atlanta officials were focused on the wrong things.

In a rough economy elected officials should concentrate on jobs, said Boram Lee of Buckhead Cigars.

"You might as well pass a resolution urging Georgians to eat their vegetables and take a daily multi-vitamin," Lee said.

But supporters won out.

The ban "really gives teeth to people who want to confront folks who are smoking in the park and say 'you can't do that here,'" said Councilwoman Joyce Sheperd.