GOOSE CREEK — For the councilmen who voted Tuesday for a public indoor smoking ban, the decision came down to the city’s mission statement.
Council received applause when it voted 4-3 to pass first reading of a citywide ban on lighting up in public places and places of employment. Final reading will be held at council’s January meeting.
The law would allow smoking on porches and decks more than 10 feet from a building’s entrance. Violators could be fined $10 to $25.
“Protecting the health of our citizens is part of the city’s mission statement,” said Councilman Franklin Moore, who revived the issue shortly after being elected to council earlier this year. Council did not support a similar law in 2009, but Moore said people have asked him to revisit it.
“One of principal roles of the government is to protect public health and the quality of life, and I think that’s what this ordinance will do,” he said.
The city’s mission statement says, in part, that it “seeks to serve the needs of its people, businesses and community institutions for a safe, secure and healthy environment.”
Councilman Jerry Tekac, who at an October public hearing said he would have a difficult time deciding whether to support the ban, agreed.
“When they put you in charge of health, you have to do the right thing,” he said. “This is still a difficult decision, but it’s the responsible thing to do. Health is the issue.”
A standing-room-only crowed of about 150 turned out for the meeting and about 15 people spoke out about smoking. Most, like Richard Hernandez of the Smoke-free Lowcountry Coalition, supported the ban and cited health issues connected to smoking and breathing secondhand smoke.
The handful who were against the ban said they did not believe the city had the authority to regulate “personal property rights.”
Moore, Tekac and Councilmen Mark Phillips and Kimo Esarey supported the ordinance. Mayor Mike Heitzler and council members Marguerite Brown and John McCants voted against it.
Heitzler said he believes smoking is a health issue but that since neither the state Department of Health and Environmental Control nor the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulate it, neither should Goose Creek. “This is none of our business,” he said. “Personal choice is your business.”
If the proposal passes its final reading, Goose Creek will join municipalities such as Sullivan’s Island, Mount Pleasant, Summerville, Charleston and Charleston County in prohibiting smoking.
Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or www.facebook.com/brindge.