Friday’s editorial gives a well-deserved kudos to Atlantic Beach’s recent smoking ban:
We were happy to watch last week as the Atlantic Beach Town Council generated some positive news for the town, passing a smoking ban that covers all workplaces and the beach, beginning July 2.
Atlantic Beach joins Surfside Beach and North Carolina in outlawing smoking in most public places. Florence and Spartanburg also passed bans this month. According to the S.C. Tobacco Collaborative, an anti-smoking group, 34 percent of the state’s residents now live in areas covered by workplace smoking bans.
We hardly need cite all the expert studies that expose the danger of secondhand smoke and show the public health benefits of smoking bans.
Beyond health concerns, Atlantic Beach’s restriction on smoking on the beach is particularly appealing. As any participant in a beach cleanup day can attest, cigarette butts are by far the most common piece of litter fouling our beaches.
One of the persistent barriers to smoking bans has been the concern of businesses that they would lose customers to neighboring areas without smoking bans. Laura Watson, general manager of the Crazy Horse club in Atlantic Beach, voiced that worry before the town approved its ban, pointing out that “our competition north and south of us have no ban.”
Numerous studies have found most businesses don’t see that drop off in revenue, but the risk is obviously lessened when the area encompassed by the ban is larger. That’s one reason we’d embrace statewide legislation on the issue – we’re one of seven states that have no statewide indoor smoking restrictions – but it does not seem to be a priority for our legislature.
Myrtle Beach spokesman Mark Kruea said this week that the City Council “has not talked about what the other towns has done,” but instead the city thinks a “a statewide solution, such as what North Carolina implemented two years ago now, would be the best way to go, rather than a piecemeal approach.”
It’s an understandable stance taken by a city built upon the industry of being hospitable and welcoming. But in the absence of statewide action, we’d happily accept more actions by our cities or counties. Indeed, when they perceived a danger to their citizens, Myrtle Beach City Council members were happy to pass a piecemeal approach to motorcycle helmet laws. We’d argue that secondhand smoke poses at least as great a threat.
Barring statewide smoking restrictions, a united stance on the Grand Strand could help assure businesses that their neighbors won’t be poaching their smoking customers. Smoke Free Horry, a partnership involving a number of health agencies, has already begun laying the groundwork.
Smaller steps, such as banning tobacco use just on Horry County beaches, could also be an important move toward cleaner air for all of us. The Coastal Alliance’s effort to standardize most beach rules along the Grand Strand seems nearly complete, but if another endeavor is begun, we would heartily suggest discussing a uniform rule on beach smoking.