Smoke free debate continues in Horry County

Published: Jul. 16, 2011 at 12:56 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 22, 2011 at 7:46 PM EDT
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MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Smoke Free Horry hosted a kid-focused event in Myrtle Beach Friday as a way to continue educating people about the dangers of smoking. The event also served as evidence that the organization continues to grow its efforts to reduce tobacco use in the county.

While many people may think the organization is focused on getting cities or the county to pass smoke-free ordinances, the main goal is really to teach people about the dangers of smoking and second-hand smoke. The organization also work to keep people from smoking or to help them stop.

If the education and raised awareness prompts people to ask for public smoking bans, Ty Grissett with Smoke Free Horry say that is even better.

"The governments are elected to be able to do the will of the people," Grissett said. "We're primarily here to educate people about the dangers of smoking and second-hand smoke. If those politicians or elected officials as for additional information as to the effects of smoking and second hand smoke, we would be more than happy to provide them with that information."

Since 2008, Surfside Beach had been the only Horry County government with public smoking restrictions. Earlier this year Atlantic Beach also approved to ban smoking in workplaces and public spaces including the beach.

However, in Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes said while the city has eliminated smoking on its own property council is not ready to expand the restrictions to other workplaces and businesses. County council has taken a similar stance, but now a citizens group inspired by Smoke Free Horry is pushing for change.

"We'd love to see Horry County and all of the municipalities in the area pass smoking ordinances and go smoke free because it's what we feel like a majority of the public wants," said Bill Crowther with the Healthy Horry Coalition.

He said it just makes sense to bring the Grand Strand up to date with other areas where tourists come from.

"They're shocked when they come in and they can go to a restaurant and people are smoking there," he said. "They're not used to that."

Crowther said he was living in Clemson when that town approved a public smoking restriction. He said some businesses opposed it, but they later found that there were no drawbacks.

Others have said a ban on smoking in all workplaces, including restaurants and bars, can best be justified as a way to protect the health of workers. While customers can chose whether or not to be in a smoky environment, employees do not have as much control over their surroundings.

That argument is also part of Smoke Free Horry's campaign to the public.

"The goal is to first off educate the public about the dangers of smoking and second-hand smoke, and one of our other goals is also to encourage more businesses to consider smoke-free policies for their workers," Grissett said.

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