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      Florence considers smoking ban

      Florence City Council is considering an ordinance that would ban smoking in enclosed buildings and spaces in the city.

      The ordinance was introduced Monday afternoon at the Florence City Council meeting.

      It has some people, like Benjamin Streett, fired up. Every morning, Benjamin his buddy Gene Price grab a cup of coffee and smoke a cigarette or two at Venus Pancake House in Florence. "The air outside ain't much cleaner than it is in here," said Benjamin, who believes it's his choice to light up where he wants. "It's a right just like every other right. None of them is more important than any of the rest of them."

      Tommy Kennedy, a resident of Florence, agrees, saying the city should butt out. "The city's got enough. They ought to sweep under their own doorsteps before they go under somebody else's doorstep."

      Leah Hickman is with SmokeFree Florence. She said separating smokers from non-smokers is not effective when it comes to eliminating the dangers of secondhand smoke. She said nearly 800 people die each year in South Carolina from exposure to secondhand smoke. "The surgeon general states that there is no risk free level of exposure to second hand smoke."

      So far, 53 restaurants in the City of Florence are smoke free. Many of Smokefree Florence's supporters showed up at Monday's Florence City Council meeting. They dressed in blue with 'Smokefree' labels on their shirts. "Everyone deserves to breathe smoke free air when they're at work or when they go into restaurants or bar or workplace," Hickman said.

      The ordinance proposed Monday says, that smoking shall be prohibited in all enclosed buildings and spaces which are open to the public and have employees. It does not apply to private homes unless used as a licensed day care, adult day care, or healthcare facility. The ordinance does allow smoking at the owner/managers discretion on open decks, balconies and patios of restaurants.

      No action was taken Monday when the ordinance was first introduced. It will be formally introduced in March for first reading. If passed, it becomes effective November 1, 2011.