Horry County to discuss smoking, tobacco ban on all county property

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WBTW) – Tobacco use in Horry County may become a lot more difficult. A proposed ordinance would ban smoking, vaping, dipping and other tobacco product use on all county property.

Council members will discuss the ordinance at their fall retreat Wednesday. The ban would include county government buildings, their parking lots, county boat landings, parks and beach access points.

The ordinance cites health risks from tobacco use as the driving factor behind the ban.

“It’s like, ‘ew who needs to smell that?’” questioned Horry County resident Maureen Purcell. She and others who do not like breathing cigarette smoke may be breathing a sigh of relief.

“Especially at parks and beaches where you’ve got little kids,” she said. “They don’t need to inhale that either.”

The county controls over 30 public parks, 27 boat landings and 22 beach access points.

According to the ordinance:

“Smoking and/or use of any Tobacco Product is strictly prohibited on all Horry County Government properties, whether owned, leased, or operated, including but not limited to, offices, buildings, entryways, decks, patios and exits, parking lots, common areas, outside stairways, and parks and recreation areas, including parks, fields or facilities.”

The ordinance defines tobacco products as any product “made, or derived from tobacco or nicotine that is intended for human consumption, whether smoked, heated, chewed, absorbed, dissolved, inhaled, snorted, sniffed, or ingested by any other means.”

The rules would not apply to products marketed to help quit smoking.

Not everyone is on board with the new rules, including council members.

“That’s too much Big Brother for me,” Councilman Johnny Vaught told News13 Monday.

Vaught said he knows first-hand the effect of tobacco use. “I think smoking’s bad for you,” he said. “That’s why I quit. But it’s their choice.”

He explained there is a fine line between promoting public wellness and too much government intervention.

“If we infringe on that right, that right of self-decision and self-determination, then we’re way overstepping our bounds as a council,” Vaught said.

We asked him how the county could enforce such a widespread ban. He replied, laughing, “Double the size of the police force,” which is an option Councilman Al Allen explained is not available.

“We don’t have the manpower, nor the funding to enforce such a broad, open ordinance,” he said.

Allen also expressed his strong opposition to the ordinance, which will go before the members Wednesday for first reading.

“I don’t smoke,” Allen said. “But if you continue to allow your government to take away personal choices, that is not what I feel like we’re supposed to do.”

The proposal would prevent county employees from receiving paid smoking breaks and says that a county employee caught breaking the rules could be fired.

Members of the public caught breaking the rules would be subject to a fine of $10 to $25 per occurrence.

The ordinance would have to pass three readings to become law.

News13 also reached out to other council members Monday, but so far we have not heard back.