Dorchester County Council not only tabled for a second time a law to ban workplace smoking Viceroy but also tabled a motion to require smoking or no-smoking signs in those businesses. Councilman David Chinnis had proposed the sign law as a compromise to the smoking ban, which has council divided.
He derailed a vote on the smoking ban at a Monday meeting by asking to table it again after council members’ comments made it apparent it would not be approved.
The vote to table the smoking ban was 4-3, supported by Councilmen Jay Byars, Bill Hearn and George Bailey, who said along with Chinnis they would vote not to approve it.
The vote to table the sign law was unanimous.
Councilman Richard Rosebrock asked to table the sign posting law, “to give more thought to this,” he said. Councilman Willie Davis concurred, saying he didn’t want to force business owners to post the signs.
The moves disgruntled people in the crowded council chamber on both sides of the issue.
Council has been divided on the law since it was first proposed in January by Chairman Larry Hargett.
“Sometimes good-intentioned legislation has unintended consequences,” said Byars, citing businesses in Florida that failed after a similar law passed. Protecting businesses “is the right thing to do.”
Hargett spoke to people in the audience who opposed the law: “Where is the right for you as a smoker to smoke in my presence and make me breathe your smoke?”
The law would ban workplace smoking in all parts of the county that are outside a municipality.
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. The county would be the first in the Charleston area to approve one.
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The bans are being proposed to individual council members by representatives of anti-smoking activist groups that are going government-to- government to push for them.
At least one group uses automated “robo” phone calls to solicit support from residents. The groups and supporters turn out in numbers for the votes arguing for worker safety and health benefits. Less organized and usually smaller numbers of smoking supporters say it’s a property rights decision that ought to be left to the individual business.