Smoking ban in coastal cities lights up debate

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – Talks about a smoking ban in coastal cities is lighting up a debate on whether or not the government can keep you from smoking in an open, public place.

A lawmaker in North Carolina is seeing if there would be support in his state that would enforce smoking laws on public beaches.

Here in the Palmetto State, you wouldn't have to wait for the state to pass a ban.

"It would come from a county ordinance, meaning the county would have to vote on if it would be effective on county beaches. At the same time, any city or municipality could do the same thing on the smaller level," explains Horry County Solicitor Jimmy Richardson.

The Solicitor explains whoever passes the ban would be responsible for enforcing it.

"If it was done by the city, it would enforced by that city's police. If it was county-wide, county police could help enforce it, as well," Richardson says.

Local lawmakers don't believe a smoking ban would be easy to enforce.

"If you've been here in the summer time, walk on the beach in July and tell me how you're going to track down who is smoking and who is not," says Myrtle Beach City Councilman Randy Wallace.

While lawmakers in North Carolina consider a smoking ban for coastal cities, councilmen here on the Grand Strand say it's not even something they currently have on their agenda.

"The health aspect of it needs to happen, but the government doesn't need to be mandating it," explains Councilman Wallace.

Some councilmen on the county level agree.

"There are other more pressing public safety issues we are dealing with right now," says Horry County Councilman Marion Foxworth.

County Councilman Foxworth adds, "I think it's better for us to enforce current laws instead of adding new ones to the book at this time."

Myrtle Beach City Councilman Randy Wallace supports that thought.

"A campaign about the risks of smoking would be great for our public. But for us, for our police, our beach patrol, there are so many more issues for us to be focusing on," Wallace says.

Some of the biggest complaints from people supporting the ban are people using the beach as an ash tray. Councilman Wallace says there are current litter laws in place to crack down on that issue.

"If you see someone littering on the beach and beach patrol catches them, that's their job to ticket for littering, not telling somebody you can partake in a legal product or not," Wallace says.

Littering and smoking bans are both local issues left up to each town. A group called the Coastal Alliance is working on making beach regulations uniformed from city to city on the Grand Strand.

"The Coastal Alliance wants to make it so people walking on the beach don't cross an imaginary line and unknowingly break a law," says County Councilman Foxworth.

While no one owns the ocean, the stretch of sand to the low-tide line does fall under local laws.

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