Friday, January 18, 2013
The debates took up most of the meeting. Several citizens spoke at length with strong feelings on both sides of the argument. Councilmembers then weighed in.
When it came time to vote, Goose Creek City Council passed a smoking ban at its Jan. 8 meeting.
The passage was the second and final reading of the ordinance. The first reading passed at the Dec. 11 meeting and all councilmembers and the mayor voted the same last week as they did at the first reading.
The smoking ban will go into effect July 1, according to a unanimous council vote that followed a more contentious vote on the ban itself, which had no set date.
Council voted 4-3 in favor of the ban. Councilmembers Jerry Tekac, Franklin Moore, Mark Phillips and Kimo Esarey voted in favor. Councilmembers Marguerite Brown, John McCants and Mayor Michael Hetizler voted against the ban.
“This ordinance is overstepping the responsibility of city government,” Heitzler said. “We're not the Department of Health and Environmental Control. We don't have a health department. We need to get city council's nose out of private business.”
A total of 19 citizens spoke before comments were limited to councilmembers.
One citizen suggested tabling the ordinance until it could be put to a public referendum during the next city election in April 2014.
Another citizen read a letter from the Sapphire's Sports Bar and Grill owner, who could not be at the meeting but is against the ban for fear it will hurt the business, a smoking establishment. The letter points out the ban targets about 10 businesses, which are all local.
A handful of doctors and medical professionals spoke in favor of the ban, citing the obvious health problems caused by smoking and when second-hand smoke is forced on others.
Some spoke in favor of the ban because they have children with asthma and cannot go to smoking establishments.
Those against the ban mostly spoke of infractions of rights of business owners and citizens to make their own decisions. Some said the smoking ban would put smoking establishments out of business.
Dr. Richard Hernandez said smoking pollutes the air of everyone. He also pointed out that 50 communities in South Carolina have enacted smoking bans. Those include Summerville, Charleston, Charleston County and Mt. Pleasant. North Charleston allows smoking.
Several citizens who spoke said they are former smokers, many of whom are still against the ban.
One female ex-smoker said the 50 communities in the state that passed smoking bans have not rescinded them because they have not affected business.
One citizen said smoking bans force smokers to stand outside in the cold and forces hostility on them that builds resentment. “It would be best if we let capitalism decide,” the citizen said.
“If we have a ban on outdoor burning why don't we have a ban on smoking inside?” another asked.
“Tobacco is a legal product,” one man said. “So are Big Macs. Eating too many of those isn't good for you. Too much cheap perfume, belligerent drunks – it's something we have to put up with.”
Other citizens said they'd like to eat the good food they hear some bars have but say they can't go there due to the amount of smoking.
Councilman Phillips made a motion to adopt the ordinance. Moore made a second.
“I guess we get criticized for listening too much,” Phillips said, adding that his main concern is for employees. “We've made all kinds of decisions here tonight that have not gone up for referendum.”
Phillips said in his 26 years on council he's heard more comments in the last two months on the smoking ban than any other issue.
Speaking of the Crowfield Golf and Country Club exemption, Tekac said there would be no smoking in the clubhouse, the pro shop or the grill.
“Tobacco is legal,” Tekac said. “So is alcohol. We have rules that protect our residents against people who abuse alcohol … when you abuse alcohol or tobacco you put others at risk.”
“I'm accountable for my choice,” Brown said. “I feel it's my responsibility to look out for you. I don't want someone driving drunk but I can't stop it. That's taking away your right to make a choice.”