Chuck Williams

Chuck Williams: Columbus should consider smoking ban on downtown sidewalks


Let’s throw something against the wall and see if it sticks.

Downtown Columbus — you can call it uptown if you wish, but you won’t hear that here — is the place to be.

Now that the weather has changed and the thermostat has been turned down, the sidewalks of our city are bustling with activity.

It’s a beautiful thing.

If you have not done so recently, walk them and you will quickly understand. You can walk them at noon, in the evening and later at night.

But there is a fog on these sidewalks, and it is something the city should consider addressing. That fog is cigarette, cigar and vapor smoke. And you can find it in front of establishments throughout downtown and up and down Broadway. You walk through it going entering and leaving restaurants and clubs.

In certain areas, it is really bad.

The worst area for my money is around Fountain City Coffee in the 1000 block of Broadway.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I frequent the coffee shop on the other end of the block — people who know me know that. People smoke out front of it, too, but they are in an area off the sidewalk and away from the direct foot traffic.

This isn’t an attack on Fountain City Coffee. It’s just pointing out the obvious. The half dozen or so tables out front are often full at all hours of the day. And many folks at those tables are smoking.

Here’s the rub: if you don’t want to walk through it you have to cross the street or you just have to hold your breath and plow through it.

As I see it, it’s a problem because the sidewalks have become an extension of the businesses. In the case of Fountain City Coffee, there are often as many, if not more, customers outside than inside.

You can see the remains of the previous day when you walk that area in the early morning hours and see cigarette butts all over the sidewalks. It’s a regular stop every morning for the Uptown Business Improvement District “purple people” cleanup crew.

Should the city regulate these smokers? That’s not a question I am qualified to answer. But it’s certainly one that I am qualified to ask.

And it’s not just the smokers at the outdoor tables and benches. Go to one of the many Uptown Columbus Inc. concerts in the 1000 block median and set up your folding chair and just discover that people in front of you or to either side are smoking.

Should they be allowed to do that? That is a question our city fathers and mothers must answer.

Before you argue that the city should not consider regulating such things as smoking, consider what they do regulate downtown.

The city certainly regulates parking. They regulate the riding of bicycles on the sidewalk — a law I admit to sometimes breaking, but I promise I am getting better about it. They regulate outdoor dining.

Why not ban smoking?