York County update…
York County OKs exemption to smoking ban
Oct. 05, 2010
Patrons of some private clubs in York County will be able to light up indoors when an exemption to the county smoking ban takes effect.
The York County Council passed the exemption for nonprofit private clubs in a speedy 4-3 vote in council chambers Monday night.
Qualifying establishments must be licensed by the state as private clubs that serve alcohol. They also must meet other restrictions that include not serving food, having a governing body with bylaws, requiring annual fees, posting signs and ensuring employees and members acknowledge the dangers of cigarette smoke.
The exemption for private clubs will take effect in two months.
Jamie Self, (Rock Hill) Herald
York Co. votes on smoking ban changes
Council keeps amendment alive
The York County Council took the first step Monday night toward amending the smoking ban for private clubs.
The council voted 5-2 to keep the amendment alive with Councilmen Buddy Motz and Joe Cox voting firmly against it.
But the decision did not come without heated debate and outbursts of clapping and comments from both supporters and opponents who made up a standing-room-only crowd of about 50 people in council chambers at the county’s Agricultural Building.
Under the proposed amendment, smoking would be allowed in nonprofit private clubs such as the VFW and American Legion and for-profit clubs. All must collect annual dues, cater to members 21 years old or older, create a governing body and bylaws or constitution, post smoking signs and ensure that all members and employees acknowledge in writing the danger of tobacco smoke.
Before taking effect, the amendment must be approved two more times by the council and have a public hearing. At any point in the process, the amendment’s language can change or the council can vote it down.
As supporters of the amendment poured out of the council chambers, they expressed both hope that the ban will be lifted and concern that the fight isn’t over.
“Hopefully they’re heading in the right direction,” said Frank Roach, supporter of the amendment and commander of the American Legion Post 34 in Rock Hill. For him, the smoking ban has meant a loss of business that has hindered the legion’s ability to give back to the community.
Roach said the legion’s revenues from bingo and food and alcohol sales have diminished by about 25 percent since the countywide smoking ban took effect over a year ago. That money is what the organization uses to fund organizations such as the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and the Red Cross, to name a few.
“We used to have plenty of money to give,” he said, but now the legion is cutting costs elsewhere and cutting back on their giving.
The council’s initial approval does not yet indicate a victory for supporters of the amendment. Councilman Chad Williams, for example, approved the first reading but said he’s unhappy with the definition of “private club.” He wants to wait to decide his position until after a public hearing.
Councilman Motz spoke out most adamantly against the amendment.
“The problem is how to define private club,” he said. “It’s going to open up a gateway for other people to just say, ‘I’m a private club.'”
Cox agreed. “We’re opening up a loophole that will start eroding the entire ordinance,” he said.
Councilmen Paul Lindemann and Tom Smith spoke most strongly in favor of the amendment, arguing that only a “select crowd” who attend the clubs would be impacted, Smith said.
Councilman Roy Blake said an exception definitely needs to be made for businesses such as cigar bars that primarily sell smoking products. He, too, spoke in favor of supporting an exemption for private clubs.
But if public concern is any indicator, the council might get an earful from both sides before the issue is settled one way or the other.
As physician and former Rock Hill VFW commander Robert Sweet told the council, “As a veteran and a physician I can see both sides of the issue, but the health issue overrides any of the rhetoric we heard tonight.”
York Co. Council chambers packed with people fuming over smoking ban
Council to discuss whether to exempt private businesses from ban
January 20, 2010
By Christy Mullins
The Herald York County Council didn’t start its meeting until 6 tonight but by 5:30 p.m. the chambers were packed with dozens of business owners and residents against a smoking ban passed nearly a year ago.
Most are owners of private bars and establishments that were told last May to close their doors to smokers.
They’ve come out tonight to tell the Council how last year’s unanimously approved smoking ban has squashed their customer bases and their freedom to choose.
“When (some) people drink, they smoke,” said Screwy Totherow, owner of Bar II, a private establishment on Main Street in Rock Hill.
“People don’t come in no more,” he said. Customers at Bar II are required to have a membership, which is free.
Steve Lipe, owner of the Ponderosa private bar in Rock Hill, said he’s in danger of closing shop. Since the ban was enacted in May, he’s seen his earnings cut in half.
Council will discuss tonight whether to exempt private businesses from the ban.
A ruling is not listed on tonight’s agenda.
Check back for updates.
Editor’s note: Below is the follow up story that appeared in Wednesday’s paper:
York County Council members were faced with a tough crowd Tuesday night: around 100 angry bar owners and customers who wanted nothing but the freedom to light a cigarette indoors.
Only two were given a chance to speak during a meeting that lasted around an hour. But dozens of people flooded the lobby long before the meeting began.
They include people such as Steve Lipe, whose private Rock Hill bar Ponderosa is in danger of closing after he says a countywide smoking ban enacted last May ran off more than half his customers.
“It’s killed our business,” said Lipe, bar owner for 47 years.
“But it’s a private club,” he said. “If you don’t want to smoke, don’t join the club.”
A group of war veterans brought the same message to council. They have spent eight months stepping outside to smoke at Rock Hill’s American Legion and VFW posts, and they’re tired of it, said Bill Hancock, a criminal law attorney who took the podium Tuesday night.
Hancock related the smoking ban to prohibition in the 1920s, when alcohol was widely outlawed.
“Pretty soon, it’s going to be easier to get a marijuana cigarette than a tobacco cigarette,” Hancock said.
He told the council that the public and business owners in the community should have the right to choose.
Buddy Motz, one of seven county councilmen who approved the ban last year, replied: “Mr. Hancock, is it your choice to speed 80 miles an hour on a 65-mile-an-hour road? To light a fire in a theater? There are a lot of restrictions people have in society. This is one of them.”
Motz stood by his vote last February to ban smoking from public York County establishments, reminding the crowd of people Tuesday night that smoking causes health problems.
Tuesday’s discussion, led by councilman Paul Lindemann, centered on whether private bars that require memberships and have age restrictions should be exempt from the smoking ban. Such an exemption would include the American Legion and VFW posts.
Although the vote to ban indoor smoking was unanimous among council members last February, County Councilman Tom Smith asked to amend the ban to allow smoking in bars that don’t employ workers younger than 21 or permit any minors inside.
Smith said he feared the ban would hurt small bars, where most of the customers come to smoke and drink. But he couldn’t find any council support for the changes.
“I would like to see smoking go away totally,” Smith said. “But that’s not what we have. We don’t have a perfect world.”
Lindemann came nearly a year after the ban was approved Tuesday to ask for the amendment.
“We have folks that have been established for 20 years that are losing their businesses, losing employees,” he said. “Taxpayers are going to end up paying for it. … This is just another demise of big government.”
Closing the discussion, Motz told Lindemann: “It would have been helpful if you would have made that speech when you approved this ordinance.”
Not all bar owners protest the smoking ban, and some bars in York County were smoke-free years before the ban went into effect.
Amy Bovender, general manager at the Six Pence Pub in Fort Mill, always has run a smoke-free business and said smokers usually have no problem going outside on the patio or roof.
“Our customers love the fact that they can come in and enjoy a drink and not be asphyxiated by cigarette smoke,” she said last February in support of the ban.
Nearly one year later, she said her opinion hasn’t changed.
“I opened as a nonsmoking establishment,” she said, “and if the ban reverted back, I would stay a nonsmoking establishment.”
“It’s a huge step forward,” Bovender said before Tuesday’s meeting. “There’s all these warnings out there for smokers. Maybe they need to start heeding them.”
County Council did not vote on the amendment Tuesday because County Councilman Curwood Chappell was absent from the meeting.
Some lawmakers want revision to York County smoking ban proposal
Sunday, Jan. 11, 2009
By Charles D. Perry?
County council members feel there’s room for exceptions
Several York County Council members hope to change the smoking ban they voted for last month to allow loopholes for bar owners.
Under the ban that county leaders unanimously approved, people who light up in public places could face fines as high as $50. Businesses that allow people to smoke in violation of the bans also could be fined, and repeat offenders could lose their licenses.
But some leaders say their initial vote was simply to get the legislation on the table. The ban must pass two more votes before it becomes permanent, meaning leaders are hashing out their concerns.
County Councilman Paul Lindemann wants an exception for private clubs. Councilman Tom Smith wants some exceptions made for bars that don’t allow minors inside.
“Overall, the feeling is that (council members) want some type of a ban,” Smith said. “There’s got to be some give.”
The smoking ban lost a key ally when Councilman Rick Lee left office. Lee was replaced by Chad Williams, who initially opposed the ban, but now says he’ll support it, with some exceptions.
“In my business, if I wanted to smoke, I wanted to hire smokers and I wanted to have smoking clients, there ought to be a way for me to do that,” Williams said.
Since last month, Smith said he’s received numerous calls and e-mails about the smoking ban. Everyone, he said, understands smoking is unhealthy.
“But it comes back to the basic principle of people’s rights and the ability to make choice,” he said. “I guess you’d say I’m somewhere in the middle on it.”
Smith maintains that many other communities’ smoking bans were done in phases, not the all-or-nothing approach the county is taking. He also noted that many other places asked voters for their approval instead of letting politicians make the call.
“I also have an issue there,” he said. “We’ll put liquor by the drink on Sunday out to a vote, but when it comes down to smoking, we put it in front of a seven-member council.”
Lindemann, who said the county needed to “take a stand” when he voted for the ban in December, now contends that if people want to pay dues to join a private club, then those clubs should be exempt from the ban.
“As far as everywhere else, I think I’m OK with it,” he said.
The kinds of clubs Lindemann envisions benefiting from this exception are places that employ few workers, serve alcohol and stay open late.
“It’s not like your parents are working there,” he said. “It’s not like their teenagers are serving like at an O’Charley’s or a LongHorn. … These are grown adults that know what they’re getting themselves into.”
Arguments for changing the ban, however, don’t settle well with those who support it.
“There have been some bad laws written,” said Dr. Alan Nichols, chairman of the Tobacco Free York County Coalition. “The tobacco industry is vigorously looking for bad laws because they know laws are coming, and they think that bad laws are better for their business than good laws.”
Nichols doesn’t support any exceptions to the ban, which county officials pitched as a way to protect employees from secondhand smoke in the workplace.
“We don’t feel that it’s appropriate that the goal is to make some workers safe from secondhand smoke, but leave others at risk,” Nichols said. “That’s not what we’re looking for.”
He also hopes leaders won’t deviate much from the ban Greenville passed, the same one that stood the test of the state Supreme Court.
Still, he said, anything would be progress.
“Half a cake is better than none,” he said. “But still, that leaves people at risk in York County, and I think that’s a bad thing.”
Although some leaders are waffling in their support of the ban as it’s written, others views remain unchanged.
“If it’s harmful to these citizens, we should not allow it,” said County Council Chairman Buddy Motz. “This is an issue where it’s a health hazard.”
Motz said he won’t support any changes to the ban. Neither will County Councilman Joe Cox.
“We’ve come this far with it,” Cox said. “It’s a sticky situation in a sense. But there are times when government does have to step in, and I think this is one of them.”
For two years, doctors and public health advocates have been asking local leaders to ban smoking in public places.
It’s unclear how the proposed changes could affect Rock Hill leaders’ vote on the smoking ban. The Rock Hill City Council voted 5-2 to pass the ban last month.
City leaders will take their final vote on the matter Monday. County leaders will vote on the ban Jan. 20 and hold a public hearing on the issue.
IPCPR to York County Council: Businesses Should Decide Smoking or Not
ROCK HILL, South Carolina, November 25, 2008 – Owners of businesses in York County should be allowed to continue to decide whether or not to permit smoking on their premises suggested the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association.??
The York County Council anticipates a December 15 vote on a proposed countywide ban on smoking in public places.
“Business owners have been making those decisions on their own since our country was founded and their right to do so was assured by the United States Constitution,” says Chris McCalla, legislative director of the IPCPR. “If owners of businesses want to ban smoking from their premises, that’s their constitutional right. It’s also their employees’ and customers’ rights to stay or go somewhere else.? The marketplace will determine if their decisions were right or wrong,” McCalla said.
According to McCalla, smoking bans are usually based on a misplaced fear of secondhand smoke promoted by anti-tobacco forces.
“People blame secondhand smoke for many ailments.? However, a recent study of 360,000 Europeans enrolled in one of the largest, longest health studies in the world shows that belly fat has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes while doubling one’s risk of death. With all due respect, who’s to say many of the ailments blamed on secondhand smoke weren’t caused instead by waist sizes more than 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women? Does that mean Twinkies and Big Macs should be banned next?” he asked.??
“The 2006 Surgeon General’s Report clearly concluded that secondhand smoke should not be considered a legitimate health or environmental hazard. Anti-tobacco groups contradict the actual findings of the Report which stress the insufficient evidence to support such claims,” said McCalla.
“And if the Surgeon General’s report actually said secondhand smoke is environmentally unsafe, wouldn’t you think the Occupational Safety and Health Administration would be all over it? Instead, OSHA isn’t anywhere near citing secondhand smoke as problematic in the workplace or elsewhere,” McCalla pointed out. “OSHA set standards for secondhand smoke in the workplace that are substantially above that which might be found in a restaurant or bar, according to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.”
McCalla recommended that, based on reason and individual rights, the Council should vote down any measure to legislatively ban smoking in York County.