SIKESTON, MO (KFVS) - It's an issue that's sparked debate in several Heartland communities: Should the city go smoke-free?
Sikeston is the latest city to be faced with the question. A group called Smoke Free Sikeston brought the idea to city council on Monday night, March 28.
Some say a smoking ban is a matter of public health, but others say it takes away rights.
At Parengo Coffee, you won't find folks lighting up a cigarette. Owner Colby Williams said that's simply not what his customers are here for.
"People are looking to hang out, have a cup of coffee, work on homework or their business," Williams said.
The decision to be smoke-free is one he made as a business owner. It's a decision one of his customers said is his right.
"I'm just not big on mandates. So, I think it ought to be each business owner's obligation, if they want to make their business, I mean, we are in a smoke free business right now," Darrin Johnson said.
However, at the American Legion, members say smoking is just part of the vibe. It's a place to relax, socialize and have a smoke.
"I, for one, would not come back down just to socialize if I couldn't have a cigarette," one American Legion member said.
Auxiliary President Tammey Cummins said a smoking ban would keep people away from events like bingo that raise money for charity events.
"We sponsor a softball team, we have scholarships, and without all of that, without bingo, we can't do any of that," Cummins said.
Local health officials say it's not a matter of rights; it's a matter of public health.
"The American Lung Association, the Surgeon General, have all had report after report that show how detrimental second hand smoke can be to your health," said Gina Elfrink, a respiratory therapist at Missouri Delta Medical Center.
Elfrink said she supports the ban because she's seen, first hand, the effects of smoking.
"Anyone that goes to a restaurant has the right to breathe free, clean air," Elfrink said.
City officials say this issue is in the very early stages of discussion. No ordinance has been written so a lot of the details are still to be determined.
The council has also yet to decide if the smoking ban would be a council decision or if it'd require a vote of the people; if and when this issue moves forward.