Monday, January 14, 2013
Smokers could soon be forbidden from lighting cigarettes legally in Goose Creek.
After much public discourse, Goose Creek City Council passed the first reading of a smoking ban ordinance at its regularly scheduled monthly meeting Dec. 11.
The ordinance would ban smoking in most public places. Council must past a second and final reading at its January meeting before the ban goes into effect.
The motion carried with a 5-4 vote. Many citizens cheered and booed after the vote. Attendance was standing room only.
Councilmembers Jerry Tekac, Franklin Moore, Mark Phillips and Kimo Esarey voted to pass the ban, while councilmembers Marguerite Brown, John McCants and Mayor Michael Heitzler opposed.
After 11 citizens gave their thoughts on the ban during public comments Heitzler limited discussion to councilmembers. Eight citizens who spoke favored the ban while three opposed.
Those favoring the ban cited health problems caused by second-hand smoke as the main reason for their support. Citizens said smoke is harmful to employees and children and it often prevents them from going to restaurants.
Those opposed to the ban took a mostly libertarian approach, saying government does not need to interfere with how businesses operate.
Citizens asked if the ban would outlaw smoking in places such as cigar shops and the Crowfield Golf and Country Club, where many golfers puff cigars while playing, according to one citizen who spoke during public comments.
According to Moore, who brought the issue back to public hearing, the golf course and smoke shops would be exempt.
“We need to have that forward thinking here,” one citizen said. “I have small children.”
Doctors and nurses who spoke said they favor the ban.
“In communities that go smoke-free there is a drop in heart attacks,” Dr. Richard Hernandez said. “How many opportunities do you get to save lives?”
“It’s an unsafe practice,” resident John Matthews said. “Most of the people who suffer are minorities.”
“It’s not the responsibility of the city to force a business to do things that will restrict their business,” resident Jerry Glass said.
Discussion was then limited to councilmembers.
“It protects workers,” Phillips said. “Somebody’s got to work in this environment. It addresses this hazard, which is significant. You need a safe place for people to work.”
“I am against this ordinance,” Brown said. “I was raised that I’m responsible for my actions and where I go. I have never smoked.”
Moore said the majority of people who have approached him about the issue are for the ban.
Hetizler said the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control does not regulate smoking in public places and that the city has no health department. “Personal choice is not our business,” Heitlzer said.
“I can promise you I speak to more people than those sitting in this room about the issues being addressed by city council,” Tekac said. “Probably 80 percent of the people I spoke to – and that’s a lot – were in favor of the smoking ban. We talk every day to our citizens.”
Esarey echoed Tekac’s statement.
“I did canvas a lot of people and I had a higher percentage than he did,” Esarey said. “If my constituents tell me overwhelming this is what they want me to do, that’s our obligation.”
The issue last came up in February 2009, when council voted against a smoking ban by one vote.