Despite decades worth of health warnings, changes to federal smoking laws and even a ban on smoking indoors — lighting up in Rock Hill parks will remain legal — for now.
A plan for city staffers to conduct additional research into the plan failed Monday after a 3-3 tie with council members Kevin Sutton, Ann Williamson and John Black voting down the effort. Council member Sandra Oborokumo was not present, leading to the tie.
“I’m disappointment that we didn’t want to take the one additional step and receive all the information that was available to us,” Rock Hill mayor Doug Echols said.
The measure, which would ban tobacco products and newer electronic cigarettes, was a recommendation from the city’s Parks, Recreation and Tourism Commission. The group’s vice chair, Beverly Carroll, made a proposal before council February 9 in support of the measure.
“We’re in the health business…we think it is the appropriate message to send to everyone that the parks in Rock Hill are places you can go and not be confronted with smoking,” Carroll said in her February presentation.
Monday night, Carroll said she was disappointed with the council’s decision to halt any further staff research on the issue.
“I think everybody understands that if you have an ordinance that prohibits some activity, people — for the most part — will be inclined not to do that activity,” Carroll said.
At the onset, council member Sutton opposed even discussing the idea, questioning if the potential smoking ban could be on the agenda. During council’s discussion, Sutton spoke of a slippery slope with the city banning smoking in parks, adding that if health reasons were the driving factor, soft drinks, nachos and hot dogs should be banned as well.
“There’s a slippery slope certainly how far government should go,” Echols said, “but I don’t feel quite so slippery on this one.”
Council members may revisit the issue in the future. Carroll said preliminary discussions between council members indicates that might very well happen.