Banging his fist on the desk and raising his voice, Berkeley County Councilman Steve Davis promised Monday night that the council will debate whether to join surrounding cities and counties in making smoking illegal in the county.
“We’ll have this debate, called a public debate, in the square, and then if it fails, if it fails, and if it moves forward, it moves forward,” Davis said.
Rodney Williams of the Lowcountry Smokefree Coalition asked the Facilities and Code Enforcement Committee, which is chaired by Davis, to consider a countywide ban on smoking in public places, places of employment, nursing homes, hotels and certain outdoor places. Breaking the law would be punishable by a $25 fine.
“Have a debate in the public square,” Williams said. “We will win every time. We have not lost an ordinance when we asked the general public.”
Charleston County, Sullivan’s Island, city of Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Isle of Palms, Ravenel, Hollywood and Summerville all have smoking laws.
On July 1, a law went into effect in Goose Creek, which is in Berkeley County.
“This is not an issue of taking away rights,” Williams said. “It’s an issue of protection and that’s what good government does. It protects the citizens.”
Davis, who said he is a smoker, agreed that “this privilege that we have to smoke should be curtailed in certain instances.”
But some members of council disagreed, bringing up other issues, such as seat belts, motorcycle helmets and obesity.
“I’m all for safe air and health,” said Councilman Jack Schurlknight said. “I’m also against government getting involved in the private sector. I think it comes down to choice — choice for the business owner and choice for the patrons. I hate to see government step in and start dictating and taking those choices away.”
Council Vice Chairman Dennis Fish also questioned the government’s involvement.
“Why does it take the county or the government telling you you can’t smoke?” he said. “Where is the choice in that?”
No action came from the discussion, but Davis said after the meeting he had achieved his objective.
“We were just bringing this as a presentation,” he said. “We’ll put it up for first reading and then we’ll go from there. I think that every County Council member should have a right to put their position on record.”
Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or facebook.com/brindge.