THE TOWN OF Springdale's wise decision to implement a smoking ban is a welcome sign that momentum is growing among Lexington County municipalities to protect workers from secondhand smoke.
Springdale adopted a workplace smoking ban just a few weeks after Lexington County Council approved one. The town is the second municipality in the county - the town of Lexington acted even before the county - to embrace a ban against smoking in restaurants, bars, stores and offices.
Springdale Mayor Pat Smith rightly asserts that Lexington County's 11 remaining municipalities that don't have bans should join in to avoid public confusion. "We need consistency, not a checkerboard pattern where it's allowed in some places and not in others," Mr. Smith said.
Officials in most Lexington County municipalities had said they would wait for County Council to act before considering a ban. Now that the county has done that, it's time for cities and towns to come aboard. And it's past time for all of the municipalities in Richland County to join the county and the city of Columbia in outlawing workplace smoking on the other side of the river.
The primary reason to implement a ban is to protect workers from secondhand smoke that the U.S. surgeon general has declared to be a serious hazard. But it also would create a level playing field for businesses by addressing concerns that patrons might leave an establishment in a jurisdiction that bans smoking to spend money at bars, restaurants and other establishments where smoking is allowed.
Cayce and Pine Ridge plan to pursue anti-smoking ordinances. Unfortunately, some communities, such as Irmo, West Columbia and Pelion, already have rejected the idea. They should all reconsider and take advantage of this opportunity to promote overall public health communitywide.
Some people argue owners, not the government, should decide whether smoking is allowed at their businesses. The market ultimately will dictate the policy that the public wants, they believe. But the claim that government shouldn't get involved rings hollow when the focus is on protecting the health of workers. Government has long taken action to ensure the safety and well-being of employees in the workplace.
While the best route to protect Palmetto State workers would be for the Legislature to pass and defend a strong statewide ban, our lawmakers have yet to develop the political will to do so. That leaves the next line of defense the level of government closest to the people - counties and municipalities.
Fortunately, a growing number are proving willing to step up and do the right thing. As those in the Midlands approve bans, they shouldn't embrace just any restrictions - although any restrictions are better than none. Instead, officials should adopt effective, uniform restrictions that would eliminate secondhand smoke in all workplaces.