North Charleston City Council Considers Smoking Ban

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.


2 thoughts on “North Charleston City Council Considers Smoking Ban

  1. I must say I’m somewhat disappointed in you take on this situation. I sincerely it should be up to the individual businesses and not government. I had no idea that Bloomberg had invaded the North Charleston Council. I thought we were voting for less government and not a government that feels that it has the right or obligation to tell us what is good for us. If a business wants to not allow smoking or whatever it chooses; that should be their choice. I must say I am so sick of all this big government that it makes me glad I’m as old as I am now. Smoking, McDonald’s Happy Meals, breastfeeding…I could go on and on…but I figure it will not do a bit of good. I am in agreement with Ed Astle. At least he GETS it.

    • Dear Glenda,

      This isn’t about big government taking our rights away.   The issue is much deeper than that.  Give me a chance to address this very emotional topic and maybe win your respect on my position. 

      Point 1:  this is about what my constituents want, as a whole.  Obviously I have to represent you all as one District with one vote on Council but that doesn’t mean I can please everyone on all topics.  69% of North Charleston residents want this ordinance.  Plus, 7 of our municipalities within our tri-county area have a smoking ordinance (that is all cities that surround North Charleston).  That clearly demonstrates to me what the vast majority of our citizens want in the Lowcountry.

      Point 2:  this is a health issue, and everyone deserves a right to breathe clean air. Why should the supposed smoker “rights” of the 30% outweigh and infringe on the rights of the 70% that want clean air in restaurants, bars, and the workplace?  That is backwards.  There isn’t any constitutional right protecting smokers either.  We are talking about an entitlement attitude that is self serving despite the health impact on the majority of others. 

      Point 3:  personally I don’t agree with big government tactics and what Mayor Bloomberg did by outlawing super sized soda drinks and the liberal attacks on fast food.  My friend and colleague on city council doesn’t understand the distinction that the smoke free ordinance brings.  It is simply a silly and flawed argument to make about what’s next…sweet tea.  Here’s why, smoking affects the health of those around you in the immediate area and drinking sweet tea or eating a big mac doesn’t!  

      Point 4: is the government protecting us from ourselves as one of our other council members described?  No, sadly but necessarily they are protecting others from ourselves; protecting us from those who wish to smoke anywhere they please.  For example, seatbelt laws personally annoy me.  I always wore my seatbelt before these laws were passed.  If I get hurt in a car and could have avoided that by wearing a seat belt then shame on me.  On the other hand, if I smoke in a restaurant, I am affecting not only myself but more importantly others around me.  I find the mentality very self centered and inconsiderate of others to demand a right to be free to smoke anywhere they please.  No offense, but think about that objectively. 

      Point 4:  government already bans harmful chemicals in the workplace.  Why shouldn’t the carcinogenic chemicals given off by 2nd hand smoke also be regulated?  The answer is they should be banned, but OSHA is chicken to take on this emotional issue and we are forced to address this locally through city ordinances.

      Here is the bottom line as I see it.  Let’s think outside ourselves and always default to the health of my fellow man/woman.  No one should be smoking around you and your family at a restaurant while you eat or at a park with children playing in close proximity.  Nevertheless people do, so we have to pass an ordinance to protect the majority that are asking protection.  Government is necessary for just this reason  Otherwise, anything goes in a lawless and unhealthy society.   We all have a right to breathe clean air in public places.  It is time for North Charleston to do the right thing.  

      Kind regards,
      Dwight Stigler,Councilman
      North Charleston District 9

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