Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Let's go to the beach!

Surfside Beach passes final reading of smokefree ordinance
South Carolina's first smokefree beach

Surfside Beach, SC - Surfside Beach Town Council approved on second reading a smokefree indoor workplace and public place ordinance by a vote of 4-3. The measure creates the first smokefree beach in the state of South Carolina. Surfside Beach is the eleventh local municipality to enact a smokefree ordinance in the state of South Carolina since May of 2006.

The ordinance will become effective on October 1. The law is similar to one recently passed in the Town of Mount Pleasant, with two exceptions: a distance requirement of thirty feet from the entrances of establishments, and the requirement that all beach areas and beach access walkways be smokefree.

Mount Pleasant's ordinance goes into effect on September 1, joining Sullivan's Island, to become the third smokefree municipality in the Charleston region. The City of Charleston implemented their smokefree ordinance on July 23 at 7:00pm.

Surfside Beach leaders who voted for the ordinance: Council Members Judith K. Tuttle, Joseph P. Martin, Douglas Samples, and James S. Truett. Voting against: Mayor Roy Hyman and Council Members Rebecca J. Hiatt and William M. McKown.

Town Hall was filled to greater capacity than the first reading on July 9. Supporters represented multiple health and community organizations, along with a strong contingent of local residents. Former Beaufort County Council Member and smokefree ordinance champion Mark Generales was present at the meeting to address council, "This is a very positive development as momentum is growing across the state." Also present was Rodney Williams of the South Carolina African American Tobacco Control Network who said, "It appears that municipalities are very concerned about having the ability to create a quality of life for their citizens, especially on health issues. Home Rule is the way to go."

Supporters included representatives from B.R.E.A.T.H.E. Coalition of Horry County, the American Cancer Society, SC DHEC, and several small children with signs reading, "Please vote YES." One local attendee, Ned Oxentine, recounted the premature death of his mother, a nonsmoker. "She worked as a beautician for years and died of secondhand smoke. She didn't have a choice. She died from other people's cigarette smoke."

Opponents expressed concerns over possible loss of business. One bar owner stated he was uncertain of the effect the ordinance would have on his business, but speculated that he could have to close within three years. None offered scientific evidence to support their claims.

The City of Conway discussed the topic of a smokefree ordinance one day earlier, but took no action.

Dan Carrigan of the Smoke-Free Action Network said, "Tonight's action by the Town of Surfside Beach showed real leadership, and why local municipalities deserve the right to make their own decisions to protect their citizens' right to breathe clean air."

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