We're grateful to the York County Council for passing a comprehensive ban on smoking in public places. Members had to endure considerable criticism from opponents of the ban but, in the end, they made the right choice.
We suspect that, in the near future, Americans will look back on this early part of the 21st century as a time when government at all levels finally began taking the threat of secondhand smoke seriously. They will wonder why society naively tolerated secondhand smoke for so long, and they will wonder why some cities and states resisted reforms to protect public health.
Rock Hill, the first city in the Charlotte area to ban smoking in public buildings, and York County, the first in the area to do so in the unincorporated areas of the county, are on the right side of history. Now it is up to municipalities such as Fort Mill, Clover and York to address this issue.
We hope those cities will follow the lead of Rock Hill and county leaders in protecting residents from the hazards of secondhand smoke.
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If tobacco had been discovered only recently, it is likely the federal government would have declared it an illegal controlled substance, dangerously addictive and life-threatening. But, thanks to Walter Raleigh, that isn't the history of tobacco, and its use remains legal. Tobacco products are advertised, sold on the open market and taxed by the government.
So, people have a right to smoke tobacco. They can do it in their homes, their cars, their backyards and most open-air places.
But when it comes to allowing smokers to subject other unwilling people to their habit, the momentum is against them. New law increasingly recognizes that the rights of non-smokers trump those of smokers in the public domain.
And, we predict, that will continue to be the case until prohibitions against smoking in public places is universal.
For now, though, we applaud the York County Council, the Rock Hill City Council and all those who supported and testified in favor of smoking bans. Their actions will save lives.
Members of the York County Council are on the right side of history in supporting ban.