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City's no smoking ban in effect

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By Denyse Clark

The wording says it all.

“This is a tobacco-free & smoke-free facility. We appreciate your cooperation.”

You’ll now see this sign when you visit The Lancaster News office, but this isn’t the only place you’ll see it.

On Wednesday, Jan.1, this mandate became effective, making Lancaster County the first county in South Carolina to become entirely smoke-free. 

Lancaster City Council made the smoke-free decision complete when it voted Oct. 22 to adopt an ordinance for a county-wide public smoking ban. Lancaster County Council and the councils for the municipalities of Heath Springs and Kershaw had previously done so. 

The ordinance prohibits smoking in buildings and vehicles owned or leased by the county, city and towns and also in enclosed places of employment. It also prohibits smoking in certain outdoor areas, such as stadiums used for athletic competitions and decks of restaurants and bars when in use for consumption of food and beverage. 

The ordinance was the culmination of four years of research by the Lancaster County Health and Wellness Commission regarding smoking-related health statistics and discussions with business people and officials from other counties. 

Marc Culler, owner of Leigh-Anne’s Restaurant, a popular breakfast and lunch diner at 200 N. Catawba St., said he made the decision to go smoke-free even though he is a smoker himself.

“The restaurant has been non-smoking for about seven to eight years now,” Culler said.”I made this decision for my business and saw new customers coming in. I think it’s good for business.”

Although Culler made the smoke-free decision in advance of the no-smoking ban, he still has concerns with the county-wide ordinance that prohibits smoking in certain locations.

“I don’t like the idea of someone else telling me what I have to do at my business,” he said. ”I couldn’t have a smoking section anyway because my business is too small, but it should be my own decision to say whether someone can smoke or not.”  

David Knight, director of public information for the Lancaster County School District, said the new tobacco-free and smoke-free ban will have no effect on local schools.

“We already have a no-smoking policy on all school grounds,” Knight said.

To help residents avoid confusion about smoking or non-smoking areas, “No Smoking” signs with the  international symbol of a burning cigarette enclosed in a red circle with a red bar across it are now required to be clearly posted at businesses. 

A fine of not less than $10 but not more than $25 will be charged to violators. There are also fines for owners, managers or operators of public spaces or places of business who fail to enforce the ordinance.

According to Megan Hicks, state program director of the S.C. Tobacco-Free Collaborative, with the county-wide ordinance now in effect in Lancaster, 39 percent of the state’s population is covered by public smoking ordinances.