Thursday, The House Health Committee took up a Proposed Committee Substitute (PCS) of HB 2 – Prohibit Smoking in Public & Work Places.
The proposed legislation would prohibit smoking in all enclosed public places or places of employment, with the exception of private residences (except those used to provide child care or adult care services), tobacco shops (as long as the smoke doesn’t migrate into other enclosed areas where smoking is not permitted), tobacco manufacturing or processing facilities, and designated smoking guests rooms in a lodging establishment.”
Owners and managers of establishments who open their businesses to the public or employ persons would need to post “No Smoking” signs and remove all ash trays. The measure requires persons who smoke in nonsmoking areas be instructed to extinguish their tobacco product. Violators would be subject to a fine ranging from $50 to not more than $200.00, enforced by the local health director.
The differences in the original legislation and the PCS are slight. The PCS also authorizes local governments to adopt and enforce more restrictive ordinances, laws, rules or policies restricting smoking in buildings, on grounds, in publicly owned, leased or operated vehicles, or in public places.
Rep. Hugh Holliman (D-Davidson), the bill’s sponsor, said before the Committee that his bill had been around for a good while. He contended that every year second-hand smoke causes 53,000 deaths in the United States. For every eight smokers who die of a tobacco related illness, second-hand smoke takes one person with them. In North Carolina, second-hand smoke kills at least 1600 adults, children and babies. In 2006, the Surgeon General concluded there is no safe exposure to second-hand smoke and that the debate on the matter was over. “These are all health reasons to pass this bill,” said Holliman. He added the enforcement of the measure was intended to be light-handed and didn’t believe the fines garnered from around the state would likely amount to more than a $1000.00 a year.
Rep. Jeff Barnhart (R-Cabarrus) argued that some were trying to turn this proposed legislation into an argument about private property rights. Barnhart, well known for his conservative views, said he had always been a defender of private property rights, but believed there were times when the public health trumps such rights. He shared with the Committee the heart-breaking story of his father-in-law who died of lung cancer. During treatment, physicians asked Barnhart’s father-in-law, how many packs of cigarettes he smoked each day. The father-in-law stunned the doctors when he explained he was a non-smoker, but had been around smoking in the workplace for the last twenty years.
“The dangers of deadly second-hand smoke are real,” said Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “North Carolinians should be able to work in a smoke-free environment. Granted, nonsmokers are not forced to work where smoking is allowed. But no one should have to choose between their livelihood and whether someone gets a drag on a cigarette. And smoking in public places like restaurants is as much a health hazard as when such establishments fail to clean properly. ‘Loving your neighbor,’ as Christ taught, certainly means not imposing your own self-destructive habit on another.”
The House Health Committee did not take any action on the measure, but is expected to take it up again and vote Tuesday, at noon, March 3.
Take Christian Action: Dr. Richard Land of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention recently said: “Tobacco smoke is noxious, causing serious respiratory and other problems to the people exposed to it. Mr. Holliman’s bill will help protect people who cannot avoid being exposed to second-hand smoke as they move about in public. This commitment to public health is commendable. It does not prevent people from smoking if they choose to do so, but it helps to protect others from the effects of their harmful choices. Many people will live longer, healthier lives as a result.”
Send an email to the members of the House Health Committee and express your support for this legislation.
Suggested Subject Line: HB 2 Should Have Your Support
Suggested Text for Email:
It is my understanding that you serve on the House Health Committee. I believe that HB 2 – Prohibit Smoking in Public & Work Places should have your support.
This legislation is a very positive step forward for protecting the public’s health. The dangers of second-hand smoke are real. As many as 58,000 people die nationally from illnesses related to second-hand smoke, and as many as 1600 are North Carolinians.
The right to choose and the right to private property are indeed God-given and constitutionally protected rights. Nevertheless, society also rightly recognizes that some rights are higher than others. HB 2 represents a balanced approach to effectively protecting the life, liberty and property of all, but not at the expense of the most important of these – life.
_____________city of residence in N.C.
Email Addresses of all Members of the House Health Committee