SUMMERVILLE -- Put it out. The town's ban on smoking indoors in public places takes effect today.
The law fines violators and establishment owners between $10 and $25 per incident. It allows exceptions, such as private residences and tobacco stores. It "grandfathers" existing cigar bars. The ordinance was passed in January by a Town Council divided whether it was over-reaching and interfered with business owners' freedom to run their businesses.
Council had tabled a proposed ordinance in 2010.
The immediate impact won't be large; most town businesses already have become smoke-free, partly because of uncertainty over just when the law took effect.
"It's the law of the land. That's all there is to it," said Bob Brittingham, who owns Montreux, a downtown restaurant. Brittingham was among the owners who were concerned about the impact of the ban on the business. Montreux had not yet barred smoking, he said Monday, but will as of today. He plans to add an outdoor smoking area, he said.
"We're hoping it doesn't have a negative impact on us," he said. "It could be positive. We don't know."
Enforcing the law will be largely under the jurisdiction of an 83-officer police force that has been stretched because of budget cuts. Among the issues are just how far from a building is a "reasonable distance" to allow smoking, and how that will affect restaurants with outdoor seating. Officers will respond to complaints, officials said
"We're going to handle it on a case by case basis," Police Capt. Jon Rogers said .
Similar laws have been passed in Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Isle of Palms, Sullivan's Island and Ravenel, among other communities in the state. The ban has been pushed by two anti-smoking groups, the Smoke Free Lowcountry Coalition and the South Carolina chapter of the African American Tobacco Control Network.
Reach Bo Petersen at 937-5744 or follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bopete.