The House Health Committee approved HB 2 – Prohibit Smoking in Public and Workplaces on Tuesday. The vote was a voice vote and it appeared that only three or four lawmakers opposed the legislation out of a committee of 28.
Peg O’Connell, The widow of former Insurance Commissioner, Jim Long, gave an impassioned speech to the committee urging them to approve the legislation. O’Connell said that for many years she had lobbied the General Assembly about health policy prevention, but on this occasion was relating a personal story.
“On February 2nd, my husband Jim died of a stroke. Jim died of a stroke because he could never stop smoking,” she said. She added that her husband was a man of many accomplishments and was no fool, but he could never beat the powerful addiction of nicotine. She also explained how Long was exposed to second-hand smoke for years working in the General Assembly, when smoking was allowed in the Legislative Building.
Long she said supported efforts to make the Legislative Building smoke-free, as well as all other government buildings. “He grumbled, but he supported the legislation and later the law. And it provided him a number of opportunities to try again to quit smoking,” she said.
O’Connell said that Long supported Holliman’s efforts to make workplaces in North Carolina smoke free when he was living and if he were alive today he would have been at the Committee meeting to support the measure. Long, she added, knew very well the high cost associated with Health Insurance because of smoking and second-hand smoke. “Moreover,” she concluded, “as a smoker who was trying to quit, he wanted more places to be smoke free so there would be less opportunities for him and others to smoke.”
O’Connell said those who would reduce the discussion of HB 2 to technicalities and private property rights were in denial regarding the science of second-hand smoke and were failing to recognize that the measure was simply good public policy.
“I lost my husband and North Carolina lost a great public servant to the effects of smoking and second-hand smoke,” she said. “Please do not let this happen to another family. Please vote for House Bill 2 so that someone else’s husband, wife, child or friend does not die from breathing second-hand smoke or smoking itself.”
HB 2 – Prohibit Smoking in Public and Workplaces now moves to the legal issues committee, Judiciary I for consideration.