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While Lancaster County Council decided this week to snuff out smoking in enclosed public spaces, residents will have three months to prepare before the penalties go into effect.
Lancaster County Administrator Steve Willis is hoping to educate residents and business owners about the specifics of the newly approved ordinance.
Though it technically went into effect Monday night, Nov. 26, Willis said its penalties aren’t enforceable until March 1, 2013.
“This gives residents time to adjust or if they have to get non-smoking signs for their businesses,” Willis said. “We didn’t want have (the) smoking (ordinance) pass on Monday and then have people fussing about smokers on Tuesday.”
In most cases, once council approves an ordinance it immediately goes into effect, Willis said.
“It’s unusual when we have an ordinance with a delayed enactment,” he said. “Ninety-nine times out of 100 when it passes it goes into effect, but this one did not.”
Willis emphasized that violators will not be arrested for smoking in a public buildings. Referencing the ordinance’s penalties section, he said arrest warrants can’t be issued for violations, though law enforcement can issue ordinance summons.
“Nobody’s going to get the silver bracelets put on them because of smoking,” he said.
Listed penalties include fines between $10 and $25 for individual violators. For owners, managers or operators of a public place of employment, fines can be up to $50 for a first violation and no more then $100 for subsequent violations.
Also, per state law, the ordinance will not apply to the county’s three municipalities of Lancaster, Heath Springs and Kershaw. Willis said the county’s ban only applies to unincorporated areas within Lancaster County.
The next step is for members of the county’s Health and Wellness Commission to present the ordinance to each municipality’s council for review and approval.
“Those three councils would have to pass an ordinance for the smoking ordinance to be in effect in their borders,” Willis said.
After the county’s approval, Willis sent each council a copy of the ordinance to review and revise if necessary.
“It’s up to them what each town wants to adopt,” Willis said. “As long as it stays within South Carolina guidelines, it’s acceptable. The only thing they can’t do is make it (smoking) a criminal offense where they can lock you up.”
He said each municipality does have a say in changing the fine amounts, as well as the list of prohibited places.
“For example, they could leave bars out of the definition if they wanted,” Willis said. “They can take it word for word, or they can highly change it.”
Lancaster City Administrator Helen Sowell said Wednesday that Lancaster City Council is interested in reviewing the ordinance, but does not have time to hear two readings on the issue before the end of the year.
As a result, Sowell said council plans to place the smoking ordinance on its agenda in January.
Kershaw Town Administrator Bryan Pettit explained a similar situation for Kershaw Town Council. He said the county’s Health and Wellness Commission already presented the idea to them, though no action has been taken.
“We’ll probably discuss it at our January meeting, because we probably won’t have a meeting in December,” Pettit said. “But as of today, I really don’t have a lot of information about what council will do.”
It was unknown Thursday if Heath Springs Town Council plans to discuss the ordinance.
Also in the works, Willis said county officials are interested in working with the Lancaster County Chamber of Commerce to educate local businesses about the smoking ban.
He said this includes developing informational sessions to explain how the prohibition works and to also provide access to materials such as non-smoking signs.
Where is smoking prohibited?
Smoking is no longer allowed in enclosed public places in the county, including: galleries, libraries, museums, public areas at businesses such as banks or laundromats, bars, bingo facilities, convention facilities, conference centers, educational facilities, elevators, health care facilities, hotel and motel lobbies, child and adult day care facilities, common areas in apartment buildings or residential facilities, polling places, most clubs, public transportation facilities, restaurants, public restrooms and hallways, retail stores, areas of public assembly, shopping malls, sports arenas and theatrical or lecture facilities. Exceptions to the ban include private homes, tobacco stores and private clubs.
Contact reporter Chris Sardelli at (803) 416-8416