Group urging smoke-free workplaces in Hartsville
By Jim Faile
By Jim Faile
HARTSVILLE, S.C. _ A group that is seeking to make South Carolina cities and counties smoke free has asked Hartsville City Council to enact a smoke-free workplace ordinance for the city.
Douglas Outlaw and Megan Hicks of the South Carolina Tobacco Collaborative, a group of health organizations, businesses and other organizations, appeared before council Monday with a presentation in support of a smoke-free ordinance that would apply to all workplaces in the city, including restaurants and bars.
At present, there is no proposed ordinance before council to ban smoking in workplaces.
Hicks, citing figures from the Centers for Disease Control, said 50,000 people die each year in the U.S. from lung cancer and heart disease attributable to second-hand smoke exposure. In South Carolina, she said, 6,100 people die each year due to smoking-related illnesses.
The Tobacco Collaborative conducted a telephone survey of 420 Hartsville residents which found that 62 percent of respondents support a ban on smoking in restaurants and bars in the city, Hicks said.
The two cited the health risks of smoking and also the risks posed by second-hand smoke and said smoke-free policies are the surest way to protect nonsmokers from the dangers of second-hand smoke.
Hicks and Outlaw said the collaborative is encouraging municipalities and the state’s 46 counties to adopt smoke-free ordinances.
According to the group’s website, 37 municipalities and five counties in South Carolina have adopted smoke-free ordinances.
They also cited surveys and studies that found that smoke-free laws have no negative on restaurants and bars. “Smoke-free laws are good for business,” Outlaw said.
They also pointed to the cost of smoking in rising health care costs.
The call for a smoke-free ordinance was echoed by Dr. Jessica Durst, a pediatrician who practices in Hartsville. She said in her practice she sees the effects of exposure to second-hand smoke on children.
Durst also read a letter addressed to council from the medical staff of Carolina Pines Regional Medical Center calling for passage of a smoke-free ordinance.
“There is no arguing that cigarette smoke causes cancer and the U.S. Surgeon General’s most recent report on the health hazards of smoking maintained that there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke,” the letter says.
“Eliminating smoking in the workplace would immediately decrease the risk of developing cancer, heart disease, ear infections, sudden infant death syndrome, having low birth weight or premature babies, and suffering from respiratory illnesses like asthma and bronchitis,” it says.
The letter also cites a 2006 report by the U.S. Surgeon General that pointed to numerous studies that found that smoke-free laws have no negative economic impact on the hospitality business.
One restaurant owner in the audience, however, took issue with that assertion. Libby Schmitt of J Michael’s Restaurant in Hartsville, which allows smoking, and J Michael’s Grill & Raw Bar in Florence said when the City of Florence enacted its smoke-free ordinance prohibiting smoking in restaurants it hurt her restaurant’s business there severely. “I lost 30 percent of my business,” she said.
She said all of her employees at the Hartsville restaurant smoke. And she said diners who come to restaurants and bars that allow smoking choose to do so. Those who do not want to be exposed to second-hand smoke have the option of not coming, she said.
Schmitt said those restaurants in town that have banned smoking did so voluntarily on their own, and she said any decision to allow or prohibit smoking in a restaurant should rest with the restaurant owner, not with city government.
Don Atkinson of Hartsville read a statement in support of an ordinance and said he would like to see a unanimous vote by council to adopt a smoke-free ordinance.
Councilman Billy Shirley and Councilwoman Adlena Graham both said they would like to see an ordinance adopted.
City officials and council gave no indication of whether the city intends to pursue an ordinance.
The issue has surfaced only a few times in the past.
Last May council unanimously adopted an ordinance banning the use of all tobacco products in city parks. Council had previously banned tobacco use in city-owned buildings.