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At 12:01 a.m. Saturday, bars and restaurants in Mount Pleasant officially become smoke-free, but town officials say they will give smokers some leeway the first week.

The town plans random inspections of bars and restaurants beginning sometime Saturday. And it will respond to complaints about smoking according to officials.
Only those who flagrantly disregard the ordinance with be ticketed, Police Chief Harry Sewell said. Business owners and managers will be responsible for compliance, he said.

“As long as businesses work to meet the spirit and intent of the law, our police department will do everything possible to meet them halfway,” Sewell said.

The new ordinance bans lighting up in indoor workplaces. Designated smoking rooms at hotels, motels and inns are exempt.

Violators face a ticket for up to $250, $100 of which is the city fine. The rest is state fees. Town Council adopted the ordinance because of the demonstrated health effects of secondhand smoke.

On Saturday, businesses are required to have a “No Smoking” sign at their entrance. “Healthwise, yes, it’s a good thing,” said manager Patti MacDonald, though smokers tend to spend more and tip better, she added. She said a smoking section would have been a good compromise, and that patrons will have to be educated about the new law.

“Bummer. I’ll be doing a lot more take-outs,” said Rick Swirtz, who ate lunch in the smoking section. “I think it should be up to the restaurant owner.” Swirtz said he can’t imagine bars without smoking.

“Show me a dead body from secondhand smoke,” said waitress Linda Poirier. “I just don’t think it’s the government’s business to tell private business what to do.”

Charleston went smoke-free July 23 amd Sullivan’s Island banned smoking in July 2006. Both Sullivan’s Island and Charleston have a maximum fine of $500 and/or 30 days in jail per violation of their smoking ordinances. With state fees added, the potential fine is up to $1,087.

Sullivan’s Island has issued at least one citation to Bert’s Bar. Charleston and Sullivan’s Island are being sued by businesses challenging their bans. Mount Pleasant has not yet faced litigation over its ordinance. The state Supreme Court is expected to decide the issue of municipal smoking bans.