CONWAY, SC (WMBF) – This year may bring changes to where you can light up in Conway. On Monday night, city council members took another step toward making the community smoke-free.
If you're looking to light up in restaurants, and public buildings in town, you may have to look elsewhere. The first reading on the smoke-free ordinance passed Monday in a 4 to 2 vote, and if it passes the next reading, Conway could be smoke-free by April of this year.
It has been a discussion for nearly two years. "It's a hard topic like we talked about tonight," said Lesley O'Neil with the SC Wellness Council. "Everybody mentioned it's a very sensitive issue; it's a personal issue."
One by one residents, business owners and community leaders shared their opinion with council members on whether the City of Conway should be smoke-free.
Four of the 6 people who spoke were in favor of going smoke-free, and city council members passed the first reading of the ordinance. If approved in a second reading, it would outlaw smoking in private businesses, and violators could face a $100 fine. Business owners who allow smoking would face stiffer penalties, too.
But one council member feels the proposed ordinance shouldn't focus on private places and businesses. "I think the role of government is to protect the most public of spaces before we invade private spaces and this ordinance does nothing to address those individuals who walk down the sidewalk and want to enjoy clean air," said City Council member William Goldfinch.
The proposed ordinance would require those who smoke to do so outside a business in a designated area, and more than five feet from the entrance of a store or office.
The ban also includes e-cigarettes.
O'Neil feels the ordinance is a baby step, to help protect employees of businesses. "I think overall the community is for it, the tides are changing, health is a concern, it's on people's minds," she said. "They want their children protected, they want their families protected, and the evidence of second--hand smoke is huge and nobody can deny that, and I think the community is ready to embrace that."
The second reading on the ordinance is scheduled to happen on Tuesday January 20, and if the council passes it, the city could be smoke-free 60 later.