SUMMERVILLE -- After the phone calls, the "robo-calls," the emails and three rounds of presentations from smoking-ban activists, Dorchester County Council members have just had enough. They want the people to decide.

Council members continued to table a proposed ban on workplace smoking in the unincorporated parts of the county, voted against putting the question as a referendum on the 2012 ballot and told activists pushing the ban that if they want a referendum, they can come back with a petition signed by 10 percent of the voters -- the percentage required to put a voter-driven petition on the ballot.

"Then we will hear whether activists or the people of Dorchester County want this," said Councilman David Chinnis, after commenting that the issue had not come from council members and adding that he wants to know who the groups of activists represent and where they get their money.

The decision Monday was the third time council tabled the volatile issue on split votes. It followed another round of public comments during which nine people repeated a litany of health and economic reasons to support the ban, after being notified to come to the meeting by organizers of Smoke Free Lowcountry Coalition and the South Carolina chapter of African American Tobacco Control.

Ban supporters gasped and muttered at the council decision. Martha Dunlap and Dianne Wilson, representatives of the respective groups, said afterward they did not know yet whether they would organize a petition drive.

Smoking bans are now in place in 12 Lowcountry municipalities after Summerville approved a ban in January. At least two Lowcountry municipalities have rejected bans. Only five counties in the state have passed them. The bans are proposed to individual council members by activist groups that are going government-to-government to push for them. Supporters turn out in numbers for the votes.

Reach Bo Petersen at 937-5744.