City to hold new round of public hearings for smoking ordinance amendment

From left: Starkville City Clerk Lesa Hardin, Mayor Lynn Spruill and City Attorney Chris Latimer share a laugh during Tuesday’s Board of Aldermen meeting at City Hall (Photo by Ryan Phillips, SDN)

City officials will soon have another round of public hearings relating to proposed changes to the smoking ordinance, which would allow for an indoor smoking exemption for some businesses selling electronic cigarettes or vaporizers.

The Starkville Board of Aldermen voted 4-3 in favor of the public hearings on the amendment to the ordinance that would allow for standalone businesses to let customers test their products inside.

The first public hearing on the matter will take place at the Board of Aldermen’s next meeting on Nov. 7 - which coincides with the date of the countywide special election.

Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk, Vice Mayor and Ward 6 Alderman Roy A’. Perkins and Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn voted against the measure.

Despite the division among aldermen on the indoor exemption, the board voted unanimously at its last meeting to update the language of the city’s smoking ordinance to include electronic cigarettes.

Sistrunk has been outspoken in the past about making exceptions to the smoking ban in the city limits, but said it was too premature to comment on the proposed change following the meeting on Tuesday night.

Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver - who proposed the indoor exemption amendment to the ordinance earlier this month - told the Starkville Daily News the change represents a common sense measure to allow for on-site product testing.

“This won’t apply to anyone that’s in a strip mall, they won’t be able to test product inside, but if it’s a standalone facility they will be able to,” Carver said. “I’ve spoken with several war veterans and they are on full disability from asthma they got over there and they are addicted to nicotine and this is something so they can stick with the nicotine and be healthier in the process.”

Josef Enfinger, owner of 1810 Vapors in Starkville, has been a vocal opponent of the approved changes, claiming it would ultimately hurt the vaping business in the city.

While he said those opposed to the changes are pro-compromise on the issue, he disagreed with the approach of certain city officials during the process.

“It’s really counterproductive to the whole scheme,” Enfinger said. “There aren’t many standalone buildings for rent in Starkville. Luckily I’m in one now. I’ve outgrown it and am looking for outside, multi-unit buildings.”

Enfinger insists there are many studies to validate his views on vaping and said those opposed to the changes have shown city officials documents highlighting the misinformation relating to “second-hand vapor.”

“Vapor dissipates within seconds of being exhaled, so there would be no harm in being in a multi-unit building and we are going to strive for that when we go back into the public hearings,” Enfinger said.

Although Carver voiced support for the indoor exemption, he expressed his doubts on how effective the change would be in terms of attracting a larger presence of shops catering to vaping.

“I don’t know that it’s really going to make us a destination as a source of vaping in the state, but the ones that come here will know they can continue to conduct business as long as they seek out places that are standalone locales,” Carver said.


• Members of the board expressed the need to keep the agenda light for the next meeting, as it will coincide with the Nov. 7 special election.

• The Board of Aldermen met in closed executive session and opted to place a sworn complaint and felony warrant into former Starkville Utilities employee Billye J. Asherbranner's file with the city.

• The Board of Aldermen approved an MDOT matching grant for installations of airfield guidance signs and perimeter fencing and to remove obstructions at George M. Bryan Field in the amount of $13,514.

• The city approved Trick-or-Treat hours of 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 31.