West Columbia smoking ban gets initial OK


West Columbia took the initial step Tuesday toward joining other Midlands communities that ban smoking in stores and offices.

A divided City Council ended its 18-month holdout and gave preliminary approval to limits weaker than those elsewhere.

Workplaces where only the owner is employed and private social clubs are exempt from the restrictions, waivers that aren't common.

Those are concessions that supporters said are necessary to put limits in place in the Lexington County city with a population of 13,500.

The restrictions - effective June 1 - won approval 5-3.

Supporters called them a step forward in eliminating hazardous secondhand smoke for customers and workers.

"We're protecting individuals who can't protect themselves," Councilman Dale Harley said.

Other council members - some nonsmokers - said it's a choice that should be left to business operators and their staff.

The move opens the way for neighboring Cayce to finalize its smoking ban and put it into effect at the same time.

Business groups in both cities are pushing for a common approach.

Town leaders in Irmo also may end their resistance to a ban. Irmo council members agreed Tuesday to take up the idea again but stopped short of promising approval.