Goose Creek considers smoking ban in public places

(Chris Hauff/WCIV)

By Nikki

GOOSE CREEK, S.C. (WCIV)During a special workshop held on Tuesday, the mayor and city council discussed a proposed ordinance that would ban smoking in the city of Goose Creek.

City council voted down a similar ordinance in 2009 in a 4-to-3 vote.

"I think the overwhelming majority of the people in the city of Goose Creek would like to see it banned. I think the overwhelming majority of people in Goose Creek don't smoke," said Mayor Michael Heitzler.

Even still, the mayor says he opposed the ban then and is against the ban now.

"I think government is big enough," said Heitzler. "I just think it's inherently wrong to impose the will of the government upon private businesses."

Under the proposed ordinance, smoking would not only be banned in public places, such as restaurants and bars--but also in places of employment and city-owned facilities and vehicles.

The ordinance would not regulate smoking in private residences, hotel and motel rooms, retail tobacco stores, private and semiprivate rooms in nursing homes, and private clubs that have no employees.

"This ordinance is taking away our rights," said smoker, Jaymes Moore. "It's going to eventually hurt the businesses which is going to hurt the city's pocket as well, so they need to consider all of that."

Recently elected council member, Franklin Moore, is spearheading the push for the smoking ban the second time around.

"One of the principal roles of the government is to protect public health and quality of life," said Moore. "It's something that is going to protect the community."

Councilman Mark Phillips echoed Moore's support of the ban.

"The thrust of the ordinance is to protect people. You cannot poison the work environment," he said.

In January 2012, the mother of Councilman Jerry Tekac was diagnosed with lung cancer. A life-long smoker, Terac says she continues to smoke to this day.

"This is a very difficult decision for me because I see both sides of the fence," said Tekac.

Longtime councilwoman, Marguerite Brown, doesn't feel it's the city's place to decide where citizens can or can't smoke.

"I just feel like it's not our responsibility or our decision to decide for everybody," said Brown.

Some residents did attend Tuesday's workshop in support of the ban. John Dolentz was one of them. A lung cancer survivor, he says two of his brothers died from decades of smoking.

"I feel sorry for the child who live in a smoking environment; otherwise, the government would not have said cigarettes caused cancer," Dolentz told the mayor and council.

Tina Savage, a registered nurse and a grandmother, says she wished the ban would have gone into effect a long time ago.

"We go into some of the eating establishments and there's smoke everywhere. I just hate to subject her to that," she said.

The proposed ordinance also hits close to home for her, having recently buried her father on September 10th who died from lung cancer.

"He hadn't smoked in forty years, but he did way back then when that malignant cell was first formed and it took years to take him. He was just diagnosed in April and he lived four-and-a-half months," said Savage.

Under the proposed ordinance, those who violate it could be fined up to $25 and a minimum of $10. Repeated violations could also result in a suspension of a business license.

The mayor says first reading of the ordinance will likely take place sometime in December and believes the ban may be inevitable.

"I think that city council will probably end up passing this ordinance because it's very popular, and the people normally get what they want," said Heitzler.

In order for the smoking ban to take effect, it must pass on two readings.