North Charleston council considers smoking ban
Robert Behre Posted: Friday, August 17, 2012 12:06 a.m. (Post and Courier)
Years after most Lowcountry cities banned smoking in their bars, restaurants and workplaces, North Charleston appears ready to follow suit.
City Council members agreed Thursday to draft a proposed ordinance that would ban smoking in enclosed public places — one much like ordinances that Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Sullivan’s Island and other cities have passed.
Several new council members have been elected since a 6-4 vote in May 2008 not to ban smoking, and there now may be enough votes to pass it.
Thursday’s informal discussion revolved largely around health concerns over smoking, the dangers of secondhand smoke as well as whether business owners should set their own rules in their workplace.
City Councilman Dwight Stigler said seven other area governments already have banned smoking and North Charleston is the only one of the state’s 10 largest municipalities without a ban.
“A lot of people in South Carolina think it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “It’s not a new argument.”
Councilman Ron Brinson said he favors a ban because of his concern for the health of those working in the city’s bars and restaurants. “I haven’t heard from any businesses, in anticipation of this meeting tonight, saying ‘Stay away from this.’ ”
Mayor Keith Summey said he doesn’t smoke, and his wife’s former restaurant didn’t allow it. He noted only two establishments along East Montague Avenue allow smoking, and both do heavy bar business.
But Summey indicated he still wouldn’t be for it. “With me, it’s purely about how much government intervention we do with people’s rights,” he said.
Councilman Ed Astle agreed. “If we do this, then when do we do trans-fats and … sweet tea?” he added. “If we’re protecting the citizens, we might as well go whole hog.”
Councilwoman Rhonda Jerome described herself as council’s only smoker and said she did not like smelling smoke when she eats. But she also expressed concern over private business owners’ rights.
Five people, including representatives from the Smoke Free Lowcountry Coalition and the Charleston Area League of Women Voters, urged
council to pass the ban, noting it hasn’t hurt business in the other cities after their smoking bans.
Thaddeus Bell, a North Charleston physician, said smoking contributes to heart disease and cancer, the state’s two leading causes of death. “If you want to protect children who can’t make decisions about healthy lifestyles, then you should be about putting a smoking ban in,” he said.
City Council asked City Attorney Brady Hair to draft a no-smoking ordinance, and it’s unclear if smokers and their allies will be able to rally enough support on council to snuff it out.
A few council members wondered aloud Thursday how many of the city’s restaurants even allow smoking any more.