S.C. health leaders discuss how to pass smoke-free laws in Pee Dee counties to reduce smoking, vaping

Published: Dec. 9, 2022 at 5:45 PM EST
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FLORENCE, S.C. (WMBF) - Keeping a community healthy is a challenge.

A group of healthcare leaders with the South Carolina Department of Health and the CDC met in Florence on Friday to figure out how to tackle the rise in smoking across the region, which includes Horry, Georgetown and Florence counties.

They gathered for the 2022 Pee Dee Tobacco Advocacy Summit to discuss ways to reduce the rise in smoking and vaping.

According to the latest data from the Department of Health and Environmental Control, one of the most impacted groups by smoking and vaping are high school students across South Carolina. The numbers show that nearly 28% of high school students use tobacco while 22% use e-cigarettes.

“We seem to think that if we stop smoking now, we can go to vaping. In the means of I guess decreasing a recreational habit,” said Iris McDuffie, who works with the Clemson Rural Health Program team.

“We are looking at making sure they understand that is just as addictive as smoking cigarettes also, so we are working with the youth on those issues,” said Suzette McClellan, community system director for the DHEC Pee Dee region.

During the summit, the leaders talked about how to create smoke-free ordinances that they could present to county leaders, and try to make a change.

Health experts said the best way to get county leaders on board is to educate them about the dangers of both smoking and vaping on communities.

“We got one problem that we are trying to alleviate and that we are trying to take care of. But when you look at the scheme. We just need a new system in place that will assist us to educate the public and reduce risks,” said McDuffie “Education, Education, Education and we got to do it collectively.”

But to make a change happen, there are also some challenges.

Some leaders said the lack of funding, resources, and political interest could be a setback for new ordinances.

Data also shows that Horry County has six out of 12 municipalities and schools with a smoke-free policy in place. The city of Myrtle Beach, Loris, Aynor, Briarcliffe Acres, Conway and unincorporated areas of Horry County do not have smoke-free policies in place.

In Florence County, nine out of 17 municipalities have smoke-free policies in place.