Patrons of Fulton businesses soon will be breathing smoke-free air after Fresh Air Fulton's question to prohibit smoking in enclosed places of employment - including restaurants and bars - won a close race Tuesday with 53.85 percent of the vote.
"I knew it was going to be close, so I'm thrilled," said Fresh Air Fulton organizer Amanda Stevens, who also is the wellness program director at Westminster College. "We've been working so hard to make strides (toward a healthier community).
"I'm proud Fulton citizens have shown they are ready to change health in the city."
The question of whether or not to ban indoor smoking in Fulton businesses has been a hot topic over the past year, and that conflict of interests was reflected in responses from voters exiting the polls Tuesday.
"I voted yes because I have allergies and it would be nice to go out and not stay up all night coughing," said Josh Pierce.
"I'm a non-smoker and when I go to Columbia and there's not smoking in the restaurants, I enjoy it," agreed Carey Case.
Mark Burton also referenced the indoor smoking ban in Columbia, observing "it doesn't make a difference in the financial situation over there and it shouldn't make a difference here."
Mike Diekamp said he voted yes for the ban because "I think it's a good idea; I really do."
"I don't smoke, and I don't want my kids around it if I don't have to," he said.
Jeff Mayne said he thinks it makes sense to ban smoking indoors.
Christy Slizewski agreed, noting "definitely second-hand smoke has very bad medical side effects."
"It's just a healthier environment," she said.
Her husband, Michael Slizewski took an opposing view.
"I voted no, first, because I'm a smoker. The places that allow smoking, if you know they have smoking you don't need to go in there," he said. "It's by their choice. Most places have smoking sections anyway and some places already don't allow smoking."
For most who opposed the indoor smoking ban, it was a question of infringing on the rights of the business owners.
"I don't think the rights should be taken away from the businesses," said Jay Bass, who noted he is not a smoker. "I think it's the right of the businesses."
"The establishment owners should be able to determine whether to allow it or not," agreed Becky Bachmann, also a non-smoker. "It's observed in areas where there is no smoking, revenues go down."
Acknowledged smoker Melissa Nigh said she opposed the ban for the same reason.
"I voted no, not because I'm a smoker, because there are way too many laws driving into people's rights," Nigh said. "I think the businesses should have a right to choose."
Tom Maupin, a leader with the Fulton Hospitality Association and manager of the Fulton VFW Post No. 2657, said he was not surprised at Fresh Air Fulton's victory Tuesday.
"If we'd have had $247,000 to spend I think it would have been closer," he said, referencing the grant that was secured by the group. "We had a good run at them. My concern is, what's coming next?"
According to Stevens, what is next is to continue promoting Fresh Air Fulton's various smoking cessation programs.
"Our next step is funding resources for people that are ready to quite smoking," she said. "We're working on a cessation program with the county health department."