Today's editorial applauds the N.C. legislature for passing a statewide smoking ban in restaurants and bars.
At Duffer's Pub in Shallotte, the smoking area sits well-separated from the rest of the restaurant, said manager Sue Ellen Andrews on Thursday, a day after the North Carolina legislature voted to ban smoking in restaurants and bars. Although a nonsmoker herself, Andrews said she opposes the new ban because people should be able to enjoy simple pleasures like having a cigarette with a drink.
"But what I see is the irony that this state grew on tobacco and thrived on it for years, and now they're not going to allow smoking," Andrews said.
After it passed Wednesday by a 62-56 vote, Gov. Beverly Perdue hailed it as a historic event that would help "protect the health of North Carolinians."
"I have vigorously supported efforts to reduce and eliminate smoking, and this bill will help more North Carolina citizens avoid the dangers of secondhand smoke," Perdue said.
In its original form sponsored by Lexington Democratic state Rep. and lung-cancer survivor Hugh Holliman, the bill would have banned smoking in all indoor places in the state. The compromise version bans smoking in bars and restaurants, but allows it in outdoor areas, some hotel rooms, private clubs and cigar bars - though local governments can expand the ban. Customers who refuse to comply face a $50 fine, and businesses that defy the ban face sanctions by local health directors.
Advocates of such a ban rightly argue that smoking indoors places an unfair health risk on many service-industry employees. Although some business owners may feel that occasional exposure to smoking customers may not harm their employees, a 2006 federal study by then-Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona said otherwise: "There is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke.... The only way to protect nonsmokers from the dangerous chemicals in secondhand smoke is to eliminate smoking indoors."
The study said nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke have increased chances of heart disease and lung cancer by up to 30 percent. Secondhand smoke, which contains more than 50 cancer-causing chemicals, is also a special threat to children, with known ties to sudden infant death syndrome, respiratory problems and ear infections. No ventilation system can remove the threat, the report stated.
Smoking bans such as North Carolina's have paid off since the late 1980s, however, when 88 percent of nonsmokers had detectable levels of secondhand smoke in their systems. That figure fell by half to 43 percent by 2001, the study noted.
For many business owners already seeing fewer customers because of the economy, the issue is primarily economic. In Surfside Beach, which late last year revised its own smoking ban to comply with a South Carolina Supreme Court ruling, Neal and Pam's Pub owner Pam Stapleton said she believes a statewide ban like North Carolina's is fairer to businesses than a purely local ban, such as Surfside Beach's.
"I just think it should be the whole county or state that does it, instead of the town council," Stapleton said.
"I just feel like we're isolated. People can go a mile either way and smoke."