Thursday’s editorials weigh in on the proposed smoking ban in North Myrtle Beach and on “Myrtle Beach Bike Week West.”
At its root, the debate about local smoking bans such as the one that North Myrtle Beach is considering comes down to personal freedom. The question of whether or not smoking itself is harmful has been studied, analyzed and answered with an ironclad affirmative. The question of whether or not secondhand smoke is harmful has similarly been studied, analyzed and affirmed.
There’s no longer any doubt that the practice is deleterious to one’s health. But if a smoker wants to slowly coat his own lungs with poisonous tar, that’s a personal decision he’s free to make. The debate of a public ban centers on the question of how free we should be to injure the health of another.
To their credit, North Myrtle Beach officials have taken this distinction to heart. In the workshop on the proposal held Monday, council members seemed to be leaning toward some version of a public smoking ban, but with exceptions carved out for private spaces, such as individual hotel rooms and work vehicles.
Assuming a ban passes, the city would be following in the footsteps of Grand Strand towns Surfside Beach and Atlantic Beach (though we fear Atlantic Beach has other things on its mind these days). Pursuing a no-smoking policy after other towns affords North Myrtle Beach officials an opportunity to learn from their mistakes (Surfside Beach’s Supreme Court battle helpfully ironed out many of the enforcement kinks) and an opportunity to see how bans have played out.
Both of these towns faced the same concerns that North Myrtle Beach residents have about overreaching, curtailment of personal freedoms and worries about economic repercussions. Both overcame the worries, blazing a trail for those behind.
In Surfside Beach’s case, the response to its no-smoking policy has been largely positive. After an initial outcry during its implementation and early fears that a large-scale business exodus would ensue, the town has seen almost no ill effects from our vantage point.
Mayor Allen Deaton confirmed as much on Wednesday, saying that “The businesses themselves have not complained. there’s been no outcry.” Business is largely booming. In recent years, since the ban went into effect, “we haven’t received any complaints,” he said.
In fact, Deaton’s only complaint is that the town itself had to take action. “This should be a state approach,” he said. And we agree. A state ban on smoking in public places would be welcome. But in the absence of such action (and any move in that direction still seems a ways off), the piecemeal approach undertaken by local cities and Smoke Free Horry is our best option for now.
North Myrtle Beach has started down a welcome road, putting the city on track to improve the lives of both its residents and its visitors. There will undoubtedly be a few bumps before the finish line is reached, but the trip will be worth it, and it’s one that we’d encourage other municipalities in our area to explore.
A festival by any other name
The news that Myrtle Beach bike week promoter Sonny Copeland will be putting on a “Myrtle Beach Bike Week West” in Florence, 70 miles away, inspires us to make our own suggestion.
Who’s up for a Charleston Spoleto Festival North?