The town of Sullivan's Island became the first Lowcountry municipality to outlaw lighting up indoors when Town Council passed a workplace smoking ban Tuesday night.
With residents and restaurant owners packed into Town Hall, the smoke-free ordinance passed 4-2. It will take effect in June.
While a handful of other residents spoke against the ban during a public hearing, the vast majority supported the prohibition, including Bill Dunleavy, the owner of Dunleavy's Pub.
"Smoking affects other people," he said.
Councilman Everett Presson, who initiated the move mainly to protect workers, said the island has history of taking away some individual rights to protect the rights of the majority.
"We're going to look back and say this was a good thing," Presson said after the vote.
Tim Runyan, owner of Bert's Bar, disagrees. Runyan said his employees and most of his customers want to smoke inside the bar. A government-mandated smoke prohibition would be bad forbusiness, he said.
"It would drive me out business," Runyan said.
Islander Tim Holbrook, who is a smoker, said the council should keep's its nose out of the private lives of individuals. A voluntary smoke policy would be more in line with the neighborhood spirit of Sullivan's Island, he said.
Council members Pat O'Neil and Jane Ellen Herron voted against the ban.
"It's not our place to mandate what a business does," Herron said.
O'Neil said restaurant owners should be left to decide for themselves. Any business that wants to be smoke-free could post "No Smoking" signs, he said.
"Everything that's unhealthy and immoral should not be illegal," he said.
Dan Carrigan, executive director of the Smokefree Action Network, a group that advocates smokeless workplaces, said passage of a ban means Sullivan's Island is leading the fight against workplace smoking in the Lowcountry.
"It's a challenge to the county and to other municipalities to protect the health of workers," he said.
Charleston City Council has flirted with the idea of a smoking ban over the years, but ultimately has tabled or voted down every attempt since 1999 to pass the workplace restrictions.
As recently as March, Charleston Councilman Henry Fishburne tried to revive the debate, but several other council members said the idea would be a waste of time.
Fishburne, who owns property on the island, spoke in favor of the Sullivan's ban at the public hearing. He said passage of the ordinance will "encourage, inspire and embarrass" other municipalities to follow suit.
"Thank you for having the courage to do this," he said.
In February, a Mount Pleasant Town Council committee briefly discussed a smoking ban but took no action.
Some council members fear a smoking ban in Mount Pleasant without one in Charleston would push bar and restaurant patrons across the bridge to downtown bars and restaurants.
Mount Pleasant Mayor Harry Hallman Jr. said he supports a countywide ban that would include every municipality. A smoking prohibition in Mount Pleasant alone would hurt town businesses, he said.
"It would put us at an economic disadvantage," Hallman said.
Passing anti-smoking legislation has proved difficult on the state level as well. Most recently, on April 26, the state House of Representatives squashed legislation that would have banned smoking in restaurants and bars across the state when members voted to send the bill back to committee.