YORK -- Any changes to York County's proposed smoking ban appear to have been extinguished Tuesday night.
County leaders unanimously passed the second of three votes needed to make the ban permanent, despite pleas from some business owners and bar patrons to change their minds.
The Rock Hill City Council approved a similar ban inside the city last week.
Under the ban, people who light up in public places could face fines as high as $50. Businesses that allow people to smoke in violation of the bans also could be fined, and repeat offenders could lose their licenses.
"The smoking's not the issue," said Kim Clinton, who operates a business in downtown York. "The issue is that you're telling a private business owner how they can operate. ... This is a very slippery slope."
Many ban opponents said the proposed law infringes on their rights.
"Unless Communists have taken over York County -- nobody told me -- then people still have the right to make their own decisions about their health," said McConnells' Sam Chappell, a self-described patron of area bars.
Joe Versen, a former health education teacher and ex-smoker from Clover, also disagreed with the ban.
"Do I want a smoke-free county? Absolutely I do," he said. "But I believe ... that choice is preferable to force."
Several local doctors talked to the council about the need for a ban.
Dr. Alan Nichols, chairman of the Tobacco Free York County Coalition, challenged the idea that a ban would harm local businesses, saying 87 studies have never found that a smoking ban did so.
Other ban supporters had their own reasons for backing the measure.
Kathy Brewer, a Clover mother, said two of her children worked in restaurants during college and developed breathing problems from exposure to secondhand smoke.
"Please don't let this go on for other employees," she said. "All employees deserve the safety of a smoke-free environment."
Bob Loftin, owner of Medical Mart in Rock Hill, showed council members two filters for an oxygen machine: an unused one and another that had been used by a smoker for six months.
"This is what second-hand smoke does to you," he said of the stained filter.
Before the meeting, three council members had said they would like to see some exceptions included for bars.
But only Councilman Tom Smith suggested any changes Tuesday. He asked the council to amend the ban so bars that don't allow minors inside can serve smokers.
"You can't tell me that a smoking ban on some of these local pubs is not going to affect their business," he said.
Once it was clear he didn't have the council support to add the exception, Smith withdrew the suggestion and voted with the other council members.
Councilmen Paul Lindemann and Chad Williams, both of whom previously said they wanted exceptions added, said their constituents overwhelmingly supported the ban and they were complying with their wishes.
"This is another way that we can be a leader in the state," Lindemann said. "You guys have spoken. And obviously you spoke pretty loud."
Like Lindemann and Williams, Councilman Joe Cox said the vast majority of the feedback he received was in favor of the ban.
"We were elected to get involved in your life," Cox said. "We are your direct representatives. ... You speak, we listen. If we don't, you vote us out."
County officials will meet again Feb. 2 and could give the new rules final approval.