The Town of Fort Mill raised the ante: Smoking in public places will soon be against the law.
On the heels of public opposition, the Fort Mill Town Council Monday night approved a first reading of the town's smoking ordinance. However, there was an issue over exceptions extended to private clubs.
"We say we're banning smoking in places of employment," Councilman Tom Adams said. "Private clubs can also be places of employment. What do you call a private club? A private club or a place of employment?"
Under Fort Mill's ordinance, private clubs would not be regulated by the newly proposed law, Town Manager David Hudspeth said. That prompted public concern before the council voted on the smoking ordinance.
Brynne Fisher of York County's All on Board asked the council to consider a ordinance that does not have exceptions.
"Please do not let the Town of Fort Mill became the weak link in York County," Fisher, a resident of Fort Mill Township, said. "My fear is that if you enact an ordinance that permits exemptions, then the Town of Fort Mill will become a smoky, hazy, unhealthy bull's eye."
John Little also took issue with exceptions in Fort Mill's proposed smoking ordinance.
"Workers need to be safe," Little said. "I urge passage of a bill with no exceptions."
Minutes later, the council gave its unanimous approving nod to the town's smoking ordinance. Enacting the bill requires two readings.
Officials in York County and neighboring Rock Hill have already adopted smoking ordinances. Under Fort Mill's ordinance, smoking will be prohibited in public places, such as bars, Bingo facilities, elevators, health care facilities and hotel and motel lobbies.
Smoking also would be banned in polling places, restaurants, restrooms, licensed childcare and adult day care facilities as well as buildings and vehicles owned, operated or leased by the Town of Fort Mill.
"It kind of bothers me when I walk in [Town Hall] to pay my water bill and have to walk through city employees smoking at the front door," Councilman Larry Huntley said during the regularly scheduled council meeting.
Those who violate the smoking ordinance could face fines ranging from $10 to $25, according to the ordinance. Business owners, operators and managers face revocation or suspension of occupancy permits or business licenses.
While the council voted unanimously to pass the smoking ordinance, pubic opposition commanded the council's attention.
"I'm undecided," Councilman Kerry Mosher said about the private club exemption. "I don't know where I'm going to go with this issue. I'm on the fence."
Some council members wanted to get input from private clubs with employees.
"We're allowing smoking in places with employees, and these private clubs have employees," Adams said. "Which takes precedence?
Still, Huntley favored the exceptions.
"As much as I hate smoking, if we have a bunch of people who want to smoke in a private club, we ought to be broad-minded enough to let them get together and smoke," he said.
The Fort Mill Town Council will meet Saturday to discuss the private club exceptions. A meeting time was not available.