North Myrtle Beach’s new public smoking limits are poised to go into effect March 7, and the efforts of health advocates should now turn to the other municipalities in our area. Myrtle Beach leaders have said multiple times in recent months that they have no desire to go down that path any time soon, but they’re hardly the only ones still sitting out the fight against the deadly habit.

We’re looking at you, Conway, Aynor, Loris, Georgetown, Andrews and Pawleys Island, not to mention Horry and Georgetown counties. You’re all overdue for action on this public safety issue.

Still not convinced that it’s necessary? Look at the research put together by Smoke Free Horry or the American Cancer Society or the U.S. surgeon general or many other anti-smoking groups. Secondhand smoke kills; it’s as simple as that.

Concerned that it will hurt business? Take a look at the many cities in the state that have already set limits and judge how they have prospered. Surfside Beach is doing just fine, as are Greenville, Charleston, Hilton Head, Columbia and many others.

Worried that it infringes upon individual liberties? We’re not asking that you take away a person’s right to smoke, only that you restrict that person’s right to blow that smoke into the lungs of surrounding individuals whether they want it or not. Like taking the car keys out of a drunk’s hand, it’s a matter of protecting the general public from a dangerous behavior.

Think that it should be handled statewide, rather than on the local level? We agree. Bring on the statewide public smoking ban. But in the meantime, we can’t ignore the safety of local citizens because the state has refused to act. Using this argument is too often simply a flimsy excuse for inaction. Myrtle Beach, for example, has its own local rule that declares leaking septic systems to be a public nuisance. It’s a good law that protects the citizens of the city. Should City Council have refused to enact it years ago and instead waited for the state to protect all of the citizens of the state from the hazard of leaking sewage? No, and neither should local municipalities sit on their hands and wait for the state to act on public smoking limits.