Hey, Myrtle Beach City Council, it’s time to end smoking in restaurants, bars and other public places. Our Sunday editorial explains:
“We have a rather fingernails-grating-on-the-chalkboard saying: We would like for our coastal areas not to be the ashtray of the coast.”
– George DuRant, spokesman for Smoke Free Horry
Now that North Myrtle Beach looks to be on track to pass a public smoking limit of some sort in the city’s businesses, the next domino in the campaign to curb the dangerous habit should be Myrtle Beach.
Why? Smoking is dangerous to others, residents and visitors want limits, the change can actually be good for business, and it’s just the right thing to do for the employees who work in smoke-filled bars and restaurants.
Don’t misunderstand; smokers are not evil. They should not be demonized. And we don’t want to take away anybody’s ability to smoke in their own home or even outside. The concern is simply that this habit not only endangers the smoker but also those around him or her. Especially for employees who must work in smoky hospitality businesses, the health toll is unfair and needs to be addressed.
Yes, secondhand smoke is dangerous. We hardly need to belabor this point. Repeated polls of residents throughout Horry County have found more than 95 percent of residents agreeing that secondhand smoke causes health problems. The federal Centers for Disease Control estimates that secondhand smoke alone causes 3,000 lung cancer deaths and 35,000 coronary heart disease deaths each year of people who have never smoked.
Reacting to the danger, both Grand Stranders and those who come to enjoy our shores have indicated their desire for stricter smoking limits and more smoke-free businesses. Among visitors, there is a clear preference for smoke-free travel that could be good news for our beach. A recent poll found more than half of potential visitors would be more likely to visit Myrtle Beach if it had a smoke-free law covering restaurants and bars. Two-thirds of these tourists said they are more likely to pick a vacation spot that has some sort of smoking limit in place.
With numbers like these, restaurants and bars should feel confident that they won’t lose out by going smoke-free. And for proof, they need look no further than Surfside Beach, which has had its own limit in place since 2008. As Mayor Allen Deaton told us in December, “We haven’t received any complaints.” Business is booming, Deaton said, and restaurants and bars haven’t suffered as they feared. “We’re doing fine.”
And it’s not just visitors and residents who would like stricter limits on smoking. Many businesses have also joined the movement. The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors has endorsed the idea of smoke-free workplaces. Stephen Greene, president of the Myrtle Beach Area Hospitality Association, said that many of his members would also welcome city-imposed limits on smoking.
“There’s definitely a desire for it,” Greene said. The only reason many businesses haven’t already gone smoke-free, he said, is that they don’t want to be the villain forcing their customers and employees to smoke outside or elsewhere. Business owners would like to make the change, he said, but they’d like some cover. If the order comes from elsewhere they can spread their hands and shrug their shoulders and still be a nice guy. “They want people to tell them they have to do it,” Greene said.
That order can and should come from you, City Council. We’ve had a few years to see how limits have gone in Surfside Beach, in Atlantic Beach and in many other communities around the state. The surveys have been taken and the research been done. If you’re still not convinced, perhaps one more statistic might help. A survey of registered voters in Myrtle Beach found that more than half would be more likely to vote for a City Council member who had put public smoking limits in place. To another 35 percent, it would make no difference. The odds are in your favor. The people have spoken. It’s time for you to act.