Hartsville became the latest South Carolina town to pass a ban on smoking at public spots inside its city limits. In a 7-0 vote, the city council approved an ordinance banning smoking at businesses and other public locations throughout the city, including at restaurants and bars. The 7–0 vote came during Tuesday’s meeting.
The law will not allow smoking within 10 feet of the entrance to an affected business. Fines will run from $10 to $25. Enforcement will start after 90 days to give businesses time to prepare.
Mayor Mel Pennington called it a “tough” vote, but said he personally wanted to protect people from the health risks of secondhand smoke, which he viewed as more important than a business’s right to allow smoking on its property.
“It is a question of public health. The South Carolina Constitution charges the city to regulate public health within the municipality,” he told South Carolina Radio Network Wednesday, “So, the reservations that I had were answered by that one question. If the Constitution says it’s our job to do it, it’s our job to do it.”
Pennington said the ordinance is based off a similar law in Greenville, which became the first South Carolina city to ban smoking in restaurants in 2006. Hartsville’s law is tougher than Greenville’s because its only exceptions will be for private homes, unless those homes are also used as a day care or health facility.
The council removed other would-be exceptions from the original proposed law during a two-hour debate, including cigar bars, hotel rooms, and nursing homes. “It was a very tough discussion,” Pennington said, “It was a tough thing to have to vote on.”
The mayor said a poll of town residents last year commissioned by the American Cancer Society (which supports the ban) found 78 percent of those who were polled supported a smoking ban. Pennington estimated that 70 percent of the people who voted on his personal site supported the ban.
Several bar owners whose businesses are inside the town oppose the law, but no one spoke against it in Tuesday’s meetings.
Hartsville already prohibits smoking in city-owned buildings, vehicles, parks, and other outdoor areas.