On May 1, smoking bans will go into effect in the city of Rock Hill and the unincorporated areas of York County. While the bans include fines for both smokers and business owners who ignore the law, we expect that compliance with the new rules will be largely voluntary.
Now that the bans are imminent, the next question is how they will be enforced. Neither officials with the Rock Hill Police Department nor the York County Sheriff's Office envision teams of enforcers scouring the countryside for violators.
City and county leaders are likely to offer a phone number for those with concerns about violations. And enforcement will be driven largely by complaints.
That makes sense. We suspect that most business owners -- even those who opposed the bans -- will go along with the new rules and enforce the no-smoking rules themselves.
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Some might balk at that, but they must be wary of the fact that customers could turn them in if smoking rules are violated. It is likely that this type of grass-roots enforcement will dominate until everyone adjusts to the new rules.
Will there be violations in some parts of the county? We can envision a small mom-and-pop establishment where the owner and the clientele all know one another, and smoking will be discreetly permitted.
"We're not planning to send out undercover smokers," county manager Jim Baker said. "Across the country, these types of ordinances have been fairly easy to enforce based upon complaints."
We think that is the best approach. The law must include fines to punish those who obstinately refuse to comply with the ban, whether it's a smoker who lights up despite being asked not to or an owner who turns a blind eye to smoking in his establishment.
But this law also is something of a social contract involving customers and business owners alike. The consensus is that, for a variety of reasons, people should not be involuntarily exposed to secondhand smoke.
We heard the arguments on both sides, and those in favor of smoking bans won. Now, it is up to people to abide by the rules, and try to get along.
Eventually, we predict, people will come to accept smoke-free public places as the norm. Looking back, future generations will marvel at the fact that their forebears were allowed to smoke in bars, restaurants and other places.
It won't take police with nightsticks to enforce the new rules. It will just happen.