AIKEN - The Aiken City Council passed on second reading Monday night an ordinance banning smoking in restaurants and bars.
The smoking ban ordinance prohibits smoking in enclosed public places, excluding areas that are at least 50 percent exposed to the outdoors.
The 4-3 vote came late after more than two and half hours of discussion, during which several residents expressed opposition to the restriction.
While some questioned whether people were actually harmed from second-hand smoke, others opposed banning smoking in bars.
Jane Page Thompson, a local Realtor, argued that banning smoking in bar establishments would harm those businesses.
“Give smokers freedom of choice,” she said, arguing that the issue wasn’t smoking but rather individual rights.
Sam Erb, owner of The West Side Bowery, told the council that banning smoking in bars would end up hurting business owners.
“Times are tough for business owners,” he said, adding that he was in favor of the parking limit ordinance the council passed last year. “But is this the time to impose an ordinance on independent business owners?”
Council members were divided on the issue.
Mayor Fred Cavanaugh and Council member Beverly Clyburn, who both had family members die from smoking-related illnesses, were in favor of the ordinance, saying that it was important to protect public health.
“I think this smoking ban ranks right up there with seat belt laws, helmet law, gun control and all those that tend to erode personal rights,” Ms. Clyburn said. “I’m not trying to stop anyone from smoking. but I know first hand, as I watched my brother die, that smoking kills.”
Council members Lessie Price and Dick Dewar also voted for the ban.
Council member Dick Smith voted against the ordinance, saying that the council was trying to “impose our views on quite a few establishments that provide income.”
Council member Don Wells said he didn’t see any way of enforcing the ban and was uncomfortable with an ordinance that took away people’s rights. Jane Vaughters also voted against the ban.
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