Protect Local Control

Ensuring Community Rights
To Pass Smokefree Ordinances

State Status

No Preemption


"Any Federal or State regulation of tobacco products should contain unambiguous non-preemption provisions, expressly clarifying that higher standards of public health protection imposed by State and Local governments are preserved."

Congressional Advisory Committee on Tobacco Policy And Public Health (Co-Chairs: C. Everett Koop, M.D. and David A. Kessler, M.D.), Final Report, July 1997

South Carolina

Smokefree progress throughout South Carolina

Nearly 40 communities throughout South Carolina have enacted strong smokefree laws.

The South Carolina Supreme Court unanimously ruled that local governments have the right to enact and enforce smokefree laws on March 31, 2008. The Supreme Court ruling upheld the local smokefree law enacted by the City of Greenville in October 2006, which paves the way for other South Carolina communities to move forward with enacting and enforcing smokefree laws.

Prior to this ruling, the law with respect to preemption in South Carolina was unsettled, as two trial courts in the state had reached opposite conclusions on the issue. In June 2006, the town of Sullivan's Island enacted a 100% smokefree workplace law, the first of its kind in South Carolina, and the law was upheld against a legal challenge based on preemption. In Beachfront Entertainment, Inc., et. al. v. Town of Sullivan's Island, No. 2006-CP-10-3501 (SC Court of Common Pleas, Charleston County, Dec. 20, 2006), the court found neither express nor implied preemption in state law. The court noted that S.C. Code § 5-7-30, a part of the Home Rule Act, specifically authorizes municipalities to enact regulations "preserving health, peace and good government" and that "the power to regulate and control smoking is widely recognized."

In October 2006, Greenville enacted a strong smokefree law, which was also challenged in court on the ground of preemption. This time, in Foothills Brewing Concern, Inc. et. al. v. City of Greenville, No. 2006-CP-23-7803 (SC Court of Common Pleas, Greenville County, Mar. 8, 2007), the court not only ruled that the City law was preempted by State law, but also that it violated the State Constitution by criminalizing conduct that is not illegal under State criminal laws governing the same subject. The court thus declared the law to be void and unenforceable and permanently enjoined its enforcement.

While the preemption issue was unresolved, municipalities in South Carolina other than those within the jurisdiction of the Greenville County court were still free to enact their own smokefree air laws, subject, of course, to the possibility that any law might be challenged on the basis of preemption.

Since Sullivan's Island enacted the first 100% smokefree law in the state in June 2006, many other local communities have asserted their right to local control by enacting 100% smokefree ordinances. These communities include Beaufort County, Bluffton, Columbia, Charleston, Hilton Head Island and Clemson, and other communities are in the process of considering smokefree policies.

Current tobacco-related statistics are available from the Centers for Disease Control's Tobacco Control State Highlights, 2010.

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