Thursday, May 14, 2009

Smoking ban likely to be a reality

I remember visiting Ireland seven years ago, and the big news story at that time was that smoking was to be banned in all pubs. PUBS! It was the first time that I thought something like that could actually happen in North Carolina.

Well, it looks like the state that has long held up tobacco as king will soon tell folks to take it outside.

Smoking will soon be prohibited in bars and restaurants across North Carolina, a state where tobacco was once revered for the money it generated for farmers, universities and community and cultural institutions [according to the News & Observer].

The state House on Wednesday narrowly approved a compromise with the Senate on a smoking ban. The legislation moves to Gov. Beverly Perdue, who said she will sign into law a bill that would have been unthinkable not long ago in a state with such strong economic and cultural ties to the plant. The ban would go into effect Jan. 2.

Perdue, a Democrat, called it "an important and historic day for North Carolina."


As you would imagine, when a bill passes by such a slim margin (62-56), there was mixed reaction.

Health advocates pushed the bill that was opposed by lawmakers from areas were tobacco-growing and cigarette factories are big employers [according to the Greenville Daily Reflector].

Supporters noted a 2006 report by the U.S. Surgeon General that no amount of exposure to secondhand smoke could be considered safe, and that servers who worked in restaurants and bars where patrons smoked were forced to sacrifice their health for a paycheck. A counter argument was that adults who run businesses or patronize them should choose whether to spend time in smoke-filled rooms.

"This is about the freedom and rights to do on your property what you see fit," said Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett County, whose rural home county includes many tobacco growers. "As well-intended as this bill may be, it's wrong. It's wrong to take away freedom."

Philosophically, I understand the argument that this could be seen as an infringement on personal rights. But, then again, so could making it illegal to not buckle your seatbelt, and I, for one, am thankful that is a law. After all, as the gorgeous blond in this video says, what about the children?

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