Judge snuffs out smoking ban challenge

U.S. District Judge Michael P. Mills has declined to stop enforcement of Tupelo's month-old smoking ban.

Mills ruled Thursday in a lawsuit brought by some businesses challenging the new ordinance.

"There is no constitutional right to smoke," Mills said after a hearing in Oxford.

Hattiesburg is considering a similar measure.

Tupelo attorney Jason Shelton, who represented the plaintiffs, claimed the ordinance is too vague, amounted to the city "taking" profits from Tupelo business owners and lacked a system of due process by which business owners could seek relief if charged under the ordinance.

The ordinance defines a public place where smoking may be banned as an enclosed area in which invited members of the public gather or that is used by the general public.

Mills said buildings could have a public place to which the public is not invited, such as private offices. Mills said those would not be subject to the ban.

Tupelo's ordinance became effective Oct. 5. Since that time, bar owners in particular have complained of losing revenues because people can't smoke and drink. When people go out back 10 feet from the door or 25 feet from the front door, they aren't in the bar buying drinks, the bar owners said.