HICKS COLUMN: Smokers, or personal freedom lovers, unite
And now, a public service announcement from North Charleston City Councilman Ed Astle:
If you’re opposed to a smoking ban for North Charleston, get down to City Hall a little before 5 p.m. today and let your voice be heard.
Today, the council will decide whether a proposed smoking ban moves forward or gets snuffed out. The ordinance would shut down smoking sections in North Charleston bars, restaurants and businesses — sort of like Charleston, Mount Pleasant and Charleston County, among others, already have done.
A few years ago, North Charleston wisely rejected a similar proposal. But now there are new folks on council, and the outcome of this is nowhere near as certain.
When you have these sorts of hearings, usually only supporters show up. But Astle and Mayor Keith Summey believe there is a silent majority out there that doesn’t want government telling private businesses their business.
And it’s time to break the silence.
Let’s be clear here, this is not a debate about the merits or hazards of smoking.
That’s kind of a no-brainer.
“When it comes to health issues, I totally agree with these people,” Astle says.
In fact, he wants council to pass a resolution urging businesses to go smoke-free because, fact is, it’s not healthy. The question is, do you ask nicely or impose a mandate?
“I’m against telling businesses what to do,” Astle says.
And that’s the point.
If someone wants to allow smoking in their business, that’s a choice that comes with economic consequences. Some folks will be turned off by the smoke. Other will show up for just that reason.
But the business owner ought to have the same choice as someone who opts not to go to Madra Rua because they have a smoking section.
“It’s too much government,” Summey says. “And what’s next? We don’t let people sell soft drinks bigger than 16 ounces, like in New York City?”
That’s the thing about personal freedom — if you want it, you have to be willing to give it to others.
Freedom to lose?
The proponents of the smoking ban are calling it the “Clean Air Act” — which might already be copyrighted, but whatever.
Fact is, if 30 or 40 people show up in favor of this, politicians call that strong support. But if that many people, or more, show up against this — well, then you make ’em squirm.
“I don’t think it would hurt for people to come, because it’s going to be close,” Summey says.
So here’s the deal: The council meets as a committee of the whole beginning at 5 p.m. in council chambers at City Hall. If you want to speak, you have to get there and sign up in council chambers before 5 p.m.
Of course, the smoking ban is the last thing on an agenda of four different committees, so you will have to wait around — maybe 30 minutes, maybe an hour. You could sign up and then slip outside for a smoke.
While you still can.
Reach Brian Hicks at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @BriHicks_PandC.