The city of York and York County held a public forum Tuesday to discuss the possibility of a smoking-ban ordinance.
About 25 people turned out.
“There is no smoking ban before either the city or county council right now,” said County Manager Jim Baker. “But we wanted to sample public opinion and let people weigh in on the matter.”
It's a timely issue.
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Last Monday, the S.C. Supreme Court ruled that Sullivans Island can ban smoking inside public places but can't jail people who disobey.
If a smoking ordinance were ever adopted, it would ban smoking from places such as bars, restaurants, elevators, convention facilities, adult-care facilities, bus depots, reception areas, retail stores, shopping malls and self-service laundries.
Physician Alan Nichols, president of the Tobacco Free York County Coalition, spoke Tuesday night about why the York County Medical Society is pushing for the ban.
“A lot of smokers view this as an attack on their freedom,” he said. “But this has to deal with the 80 percent of the population who don't smoke.”
Nichols said 53,000 people die each year from complications related to secondhand smoke, whether through lung cancer or heart disease triggered by breathing polluted air.
“Scrubbers in restaurants filter the smell from the air,” Nichols said. “However, they don't clean out the parts of the smoke that actually kill you. … This is about public safety, not punishing smokers.”
But to many at Tuesday night's meeting, a possible ban is more of a personal-property issue.
“I sell cigarettes, I smoke cigarettes,” said James Reeves, a York County convenience store owner. “I don't think you people have the right to tell me I can't smoke in my own business.”
Jessica Dunlap, who owns the Coal Yard restaurant in York, said, “I see this as a blatant running-over of private property rights.”
Dunlap said earlier in an interview, “My customers tell me that, if they can't smoke, they just won't come to the restaurant any more.” Dunlap said about 25 percent of her customers smoke, and she rarely gets patron complaints.
“We are a restaurant that allows smoking,” Dunlap said. “People should have the choice whether they want to come in.”
Also speaking was David Keely of Rock Hill. “Workers who are non-smokers still have to breathe smoke,” he said. “Every worker in York County has the right to breathe clean air at work, and that trumps businesses that say, ‘I have the right to allow smoking in my business.'”
This was the second in a series of four forums. The fourth will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the Spratt Building in Fort Mill.