P&O Cruise Ship

A P&O Cruises passenger ship made a port of call visit to Charleston on Thursday, September 14, 2017. File/Brad Nettles/Staff

Brad Nettles bnettles@postandcourier.com

The city of Charleston is just trying to keep you safe.

They’ve gone after street hawkers and short-term renters. Now they’re cracking down on smokers.

City Council, in order to ensure the health and vitality of all its citizens, has voted to ban smoking in public parks effective Jan. 1, 2019.

Charleston asks that you please hold your breath until then.

This comes from a recommendation by the city’s Health and Wellness Advisory Committee. In fairness, it’s hard for council members to oppose it.

After all, no one is more reviled in polite society than a guy with a cigarette. And this is a popular move. The hospital district banned smoking years ago, as did the College of Charleston.

But pardon some people if they see a smidgen of hypocrisy.

Carrie Agnew, executive director of Charleston Communities for Cruise Control, noted as much before the vote.

“I applaud your efforts to have cigarette-free parks for the kids and the air they breathe,” Agnew told the council. “I do find it a little ironic, since we’ve been trying so hard to get shore power for the cruise ships, which belch out far more dangerous emissions.”

Fair point.

Noxious nannies

First, the city outlawed smoking in restaurants and bars.

Then they extended the rule to cigar clubs, which put some people out of work —and kind of defeats the point.

Now, our city leaders don’t even want you to smoke outside.

Did Charleston secede again? Because it seems like we now live in the nanny state.

When this idea initially came up, environmentalists could not help but recognize the folly. It is kind of silly to ban smoking in a park that sits next door to a cruise ship terminal.

“They should be taking the same proactive steps to prohibit commercial ships, especially cruise ships docked at the end of Market Street, from being able to idle while in port,” says Jason Crowley, program director for communities and transportation with the Coastal Conservation League.

They’ve got numbers to back that up.

The Conservation League reports that one cruise ship idling for 10 hours puts out as much noxious fumes as 34,000 tractor-trailer rigs.

A couple of recent European studies found the typical cruise ship spews as much particulate matter in a day as a million cars.

For comparison, the exhaust from a car idling 30 minutes while stuck on the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge equals about three cigarettes.

Apparently, when city officials say the parks will have designated smoking areas, they mean the cruise ship terminal. Because basically the city’s position is: Pay no attention to the big boat blowing smoke all over the Lowcountry.

But by all means let’s roust that hippie vaping in the park.

Plugged in

Charleston Communities for Cruise Control and the Conservation League for years have asked that cruise ships use shore power when they’re in port.

And everyone has looked at them like they’re smoking something.

Carnival ignores their letters, the city says it doesn’t have jurisdiction and the State Ports Authority doesn’t want to compromise. Because that might lead to more demands from the anti-cruise ship lobby.

This has been the subject of numerous legal battles.

“Requiring shore power for cruise ships that dock along our waterfront is vital for a healthy city,” Crowley says.

That’s just what Charleston wants, right? Because if the smoking ban isn’t about health, it’s just pandering to people who like to aroma-shame smokers.

Of course, it all comes down to money. The cruise lines don't want the expense of retrofitting old ships, the port doesn't want to scare away business and the city is just hoping for a little second-hand spending.

So they ignore significant pollution and waste the time of police officers by making them ticket poor, degenerate smokers. Maybe if those folks had calliopes the city would leave 'em alone.

Perhaps the city will one day rectify this cognitive dissonance.

But, in this case, don’t hold your breath.

Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@postandcourier.com.