Smoking ban

Smoking ban passes General Assembly
Cigarette smoking

Posted: May 13th at 11:07 a.m.

RALEIGH, N.C. — The House narrowly approved a broad indoor smoking ban Wednesday that was previously passed by the Senate, delivering another jolt to the tobacco industry that once was a key piece of North Carolina's economy.

House Bill 2, which lawmakers approved by a 62-56 vote, bans smoking in nearly all restaurants and bars. Private clubs and cigar bars are exempted from the no-smoking restrictions.

The bill now heads to Gov. Beverly Perdue's desk, and she said Wednesday that she was ready to sign it into law.

"Today is an important and historic day for North Carolina," Perdue said in a statement. "I have vigorously supported efforts to reduce and eliminate smoking, and this bill will help more North Carolina citizens avoid the dangers of second-hand smoke."

House Majority Leader Hugh Holliman said the proposal is a good step toward protecting the public's health.

"Tobacco has a great legacy in North Carolina. It's done some great things, (but) certainly, people have a right to smoke-free air," said Holliman, D-Davidson, who has survived two battles with lung cancer.

Anti-smoking advocates praised the House's move while lamenting that some workplaces weren't covered by the bill.

"North Carolina restaurant and bar workers and patrons will be able to breathe easier at work and at play," Pam Seamans, policy director for the North Carolina Alliance for Health, said in a statement. "Although North Carolina did not achieve smoke-free workplaces for all employees, which was the original intent of the bill, (Wednesday's) vote marks a huge step in the right direction."

But others said the measure violated individual freedoms.

"This is a tobacco state. It built Wake Forest and Duke (universities). All of them, they were built with tobacco (money)," said Rhonda Selph, co-owner of Watkins Grill on Atlantic Avenue in Raleigh.

Selph said her customers appreciate the choice between sitting in smoking or non-smoking sections, and she doesn't want that option taken away from them.

"They're regulating everybody. It's getting worse and worse," she said. "They're stomping on everybody's rights. We don't have rights anymore. It's really upsetting."

State Sen. Neal Hunt, R-Wake, said he agrees with critics that state lawmakers crossed the line with the smoking ban.

"If someone owns a piece of property, and if it's a legal process – if it involves a legal activity – they should be allowed to do that," Hunt said.

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