Smoking ban goes up in smoke

FILE PHOTO

Instead of a no-smoking ban, North Charleston will continue to have no smoking ban. That’s disappointing.

City Council voted 6-5 Wednesday to leave it up to businesses to decide whether their customers may smoke inside. Most of the 13 people who addressed council on this issue wanted a ban, but in the end, the majority of council said a ban would be an unnecessary intrusion of government into private business.

As an alternative, Councilman Ed Astle introduced a resolution urging employers in the city to establish smoke-free work places. It passed 6-5. The resolution will be mailed to all businesses in the city.

So business owners will be reminded that there are health hazards associated with smoking. Who knew?

Of course, the risk is one that smokers take knowingly when they light up. Were they the only people in the equation, there would be no need for bans in North Charleston or the other local municipalities that have adopted smoking bans for public places.

But the health of nonsmokers who are exposed to second-hand smoke is also threatened. And while patrons of a smoke-filled bar can simply choose to go elsewhere if they don’t want to take that risk, employees don’t have that luxury. Our report cited a bartender at one North Charleston bar who is pregnant, making the risk even greater.

Fortunately for that bartender, her employer, Smokey Bones, is one of several in North Charleston that have decided on their own to go smoke-free. And perhaps other businesses will take similar action if not on behalf of employees, then for business reasons. Surveys indicate that business increases when smoking is banned.

An official smoking ban would have helped staff in all businesses avoid second-hand smoke at their workplaces. Now, they are at the mercy of their employers, who might or might not be considerate of those employees and their health.

Judging from the turnout at the council meeting, a significant number of residents don’t want to leave those decisions to employers.

Nor have those in other local jurisdictions where elected officials have agreed to act on behalf of public health. Smoking bans have become increasingly accepted as people recognized that the issue is not about being free to smoke, but about being free from exposure to a well-known health hazard.

Eventually, we expect that a majority of North Charleston City Council will be able to see through the haze, too.