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News Summary

S.C. smoking ban proposal would exempt some bars

Publication Date: 2007-04-05
  • Publication:The State (Columbia, SC)

Smoking in indoor public places across South Carolina would be banned under a new plan that emerged from a Senate panel Thursday, and bars would be able to obtain special licenses allowing patrons to light up.

The proposal aims to please business owners worried about losing money and health advocates concerned about second-hand smoke. Numerous communities across South Carolina have banned indoor smoking in public places, but some are being contested in court by restaurants and bars that contend they will lose business.

The proposal approved Thursday would allow bar owners to get smoking licenses from the state only if their businesses are not attached to a restaurant.

Cigar parlors, private clubs and designated hotel rooms would be exempt under the measure, which now heads to the full Senate Judiciary Committee. Many of the other details of the proposal, like whether the state would charge for the smoking license, had yet to be worked out Thursday.

Renee Martin, executive director of the South Carolina Tobacco Collaborative, said she was disappointed the proposal doesn't go further. She wants municipalities allowed to pass stricter no-smoking laws.

"Many, many cities and towns across the state have recognized the dangers of secondhand exposure and are taking steps to protect their citizens," she said. "Everybody deserves the right to breathe clean air and work in a safe environment."

But Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said the issue should be handled statewide. Allowing local governments to pass a hodgepodge of no-smoking ordinances "creates unfair competition rules," said McConnell, who quit smoking more than 20 years ago and says he is now allergic to cigarette smoke.