Protect Local Control

Ensuring Community Rights
To Pass Smokefree Ordinances
 

News Summary

Court ruling a victory for community health

Publication Date: 4/3/2008
  • Author:Editorial
  • Publication:Island Packet

The state Supreme Court's ruling that the city of Greenville had the authority to ban smoking in public places answers one question, but raises another: What will lawmakers do in response?

They should do nothing to take away an important local government power. The Supreme Court decision clearly states that communities can weigh in on the health and welfare of their residents...

In response to local smoking bans enacted over the past two years, lawmakers have introduced bills that put some restrictions on smoking in some public places. But they included the proviso that local governments couldn't pass laws more restrictive than the state. That was a pre-emptive move pushed by the tobacco and hospitality industries, who say they need uniformity.

Our local ordinances are wider in scope, protecting people in most workplaces, and should remain in place. We don't need a weaker statewide standard, with no ability to address specific local concerns.

The language in the state's Clean Indoor Act that threatened to undo the smoking bans was this: "Any laws, ordinances, or rules enacted pertaining to tobacco products may not supersede state law or regulation."

The court found that it applied specifically to ordinances on the distribution of tobacco products to minors and not to the regulation of indoor smoking. There is no language in the act, the court ruled, that expressly states that lawmakers wanted the state to be the sole regulator of indoor smoking.