Charleston County smoking ban would protect employees
There are few good reasons to curtail someoneís rights. One of them is when exercising those rights harms other people.
So while it is, and should be, a difficult decision, Charleston County Council is right to advance a law banning smoking in public places.
A customer who doesnít want to be exposed to second-hand smoke from cigarettes can avoid restaurants or offices that allow smoking. But it is unrealistic to suggest that employees in those businesses can simply quit and find a new job ó even when the job market is brighter than it is now.
As the banís champion, Councilman Henry Darby, said: Itís unfair that some people have to risk their health to earn a living.
A smoking ban rarely is enacted without a struggle, and Richard Ruth, who owns a bar in an unincorporated area on U.S. Highway 17, vows to fight the ban. He contends that a ban would hurt his business and that special ceiling fans in his bar clear the air of smoke.
But most critics say that fans ó or separate smoking areas or air filters ó donít do the trick. And scientific research indicates that second-hand smoke can indeed pose health hazards similar to those caused by cigarette smoking.
The countyís proposed smoking ban would allow smoking in private residences; designated rooms in hotels, motels, inns and bed and breakfasts; retail tobacco stores; cigar bars; and religious ceremonies. (Is there a tobacco cult in Charleston?) Performers could smoke as part of an act. And facilities researching smoking would be exempt.
Smoking bans have been upheld in municipalities in the Lowcountry and throughout the state. Among those that ban smoking in public spaces locally are Charleston, Hollywood, the Isle of Palms, Mount Pleasant, Ravenel, Summerville and Sullivanís Island.
So far, only North Charleston City Council has quashed an effort to ban smoking in public places. That vote took place in 2008.
Thereís been a major shift in public opinion about smoking bans since Sullivanís Island approved the first local ordinance in 2006, even in the four years since North Charleston rejected a smoking ban.
As Charleston County Council considers a smoking ban for the unincorporated areas, North Charleston City Council should begin the process of reconsidering its vote.