Horry County Council flicked aside two smoking ordinances Tuesday night, but the proposals haven’t been completely extinguished yet.
Council voted to send two proposals back to the council’s administration committee for a rewrite: one to ban smoking on government property and one to ban smoking in all public buildings in the county.
The first ordinance was to ban smoking, vaping or dipping on Horry County government property except in designated smoking areas 100 feet away from property entrances.
Councilman Johnny Vaught was vocal in his disapproval of the proposal.
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“It sounds like we’re talking about our employees and our public as being public nuisances,” he said, adding that the ordinance is aimed at forcing employees to stop smoking and that it was unconstitutional.
“That is covered under the constitution where it says we’re guaranteed the pursuit of happiness,” he said.
The ban would have applied to entryways, decks, patios, exits, parking lots, common areas, outside stairways and parks and recreation areas including park, fields or facilities.
“I personally feel like we’re overstepping our bounds,” said councilor Danny Hardee. “They already have to pay more insurance, now we’re gonna tell them what they can and can’t do?”
Chairman Mark Lazarus said the committee would try to remove some of the lengthy language in ordinance.
“It seemed like the [councilmen] that were voting against weren’t totally against what we’re trying to do, they just thought the language was a little bit too lengthy so we opted to send it back to the administration committee to see if we can change some of the language and make it more palatable for everyone,” said Lazarus.
The other ordinance would have banned smoking in all public buildings including bars and restaurants.
Councilor Harold Worley spoke in favor of the ordinance, saying it was aimed at protecting employees from second-hand smoke-related cancer.
“If there’s smoking allowed in that venue … these employees can’t work without being in that environment,” he said. “You say ‘Oh, workers comp. will take care of it.’ Oh no. Why? You should have known that smoke causes cancer.
“Take a bar at a beach,” Worley said. “You have five bartenders, believe it or not, most bartenders don’t smoke. What if one of them got sick? Worker’s compensation won’t pay for it. Somebody’s got to pay for it. You’ve got to think about doing the right thing here, not necessarily for your customers, but for your employees.”
That proposal is also going back to the administration committee, but faces tough opposition from business owners and other councilmen who think it amounts to government overreach.
“I don’t know if there’s going to be many changes made to the language that’s in that one, because I think there’s enough opposition to it that it doesn’t stand a chance,” Lazarus said. “But we’re going to work on it and see if there’s any leeway to it at all.”
The ordinances won’t see another vote until next year.