Both sides weigh in on proposed smoking ban

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The site of a smoker lighting up in a restaurant may soon be a thing of the past in Columbia.   
Next week Columbia City Council could decide whether to ban smoking in all city restaurants or just certain ones.

And as you can imagine, some bar owners are not happy about the proposed ordinance.

"This is a workers health issue," said one person.

"This is not a sorority project to me, this issue affects people's livelihoods," said another.

Two sides doing more than just blowing smoke at each other at a public hearing.

"I encourage all of you to support the total ban," said Sharon Peltz.

At issue, whether Columbia should allow smoking in bars with 85 percent of sales in alcohol, or simply ban smoking in all restaurants and bars. 
"There are no safe levels of secondhand smoke exposure," says Gina Lane.

"People work, they make a living, raise a family, they need to make a living," says bar owner Tony Snell.

The owner of Club Fusion in the Vista told city council members that an all-out smoking ban in Columbia would force some employees to lose their jobs and even force some bars to close down.

He has a sign on his front door urging folks to get with the city council to oppose an all-out smoking ban.

"You're going to have some places close down, some of those bands you talk about won't have venues, they're going to skip over to Lexington County," says Snell.
But smoking ban supporters say the issue is about public health, not putting people out of business.

"DHEC focuses on the goal of eliminating the public's exposure to secondhand smoke, DHEC supports efforts to protect all of the state's citizens," said DHEC spokesperson Sharon Vickers.

The council is expected to make its decisive vote next week.

Meanwhile, a group of Columbia bar owners has asked Mayor Bob Coble to recuse himself from participating in debate and vote on a plan to ban smoking in all city workplaces, including bars and restaurants.

Mayor Coble is a partner at Nexsen Pruet, a high-powered Columbia law firm. Bar owners say the firm represents many industries, including the tobacco industry.

"It's a clear conflict of interest," says Snell. "In order to avoid any impropriety, we are asking that he remove himself from participating in the public hearings, as well as refrain from voting on the modified ordinance."

Reported by Brian DeRoy

Posted by Logan Smith