By M.H. Cavanaugh
Christian Action League
January 8, 2015
RALEIGH – According to a press release from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS), January 2nd marked the fifth anniversary of North Carolina’s smoke-free restaurants and bars law. This historic legislation banned smoking in restaurants and bars in North Carolina, with a few exceptions for private clubs and some cigar bars. Health proponents were pleased to get such a comprehensive state-wide smoking ban passed in 2009, despite the exceedingly strong opposition from North Carolina’s tobacco lobby.
Ruth Petersen, M.D. M.P.H., chief of the Chronic Disease and Injury Section of the N.C. Division of Health says the positive health outcomes from passage of the legislation have been remarkable for such a short period of time.
“During the first year of the law, North Carolina saw a 21 percent drop in average weekly emergency department visits for heart attacks. Further studies demonstrate the law has improved air quality in North Carolina restaurants and bars and reduced emergency room visits for asthma attacks,” says Petersen.
NCDHHS provides an infographic that states the top five ways the new law has benefited the state.
- It’s improved the air quality in restaurants and bars by 89 percent.
- It’s improved health by reducing the average emergency room visits for heart attacks by 21 percent. It’s reduced the risk of asthma emergency room visits by 7 percent.
- It has helped reduce smoking rates overall. Since its passage there has been a large increase in the number of calls made to 1.800.QUITNOW. It has contributed to a decrease in the number of high school and middle school students smoking.
- It has helped to change attitudes about smoking. Now people in the state can’t imagine allowing for smoking in restaurants and bars.
- And after all of this, studies show the law has done nothing to harm the bottom-line for business.
Cumberland County Health Director Buck Wilson and incoming president of the N.C. Association of Local Health Directors, says, “The smoke-free law was an important milestone for North Carolina.” He added, “The law changed the way we look at smoking and second-hand smoke. It’s hard to imagine going backwards; people in North Carolina really enjoy their smoke free restaurants and bars.”
“Support for the passage of this legislation in 2009 may have been one of my finest moments as a lobbyist for Christian values,” said Dr. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “Yet the smoke-free proposal had strong opposition from many conservatives. Many of them were angry with me over my advocacy for the bill. They claimed the smoking ban would be a violation of one’s property rights to run their business as they saw fit. They said businesses were already protecting the public’s health with rooms designated for smoking. But I disagreed on both counts, arguing that second-hand smoke was the greatest violation of property rights – the right to protect my body from a cigarette’s noxious fume. Moreover, a smoking area in a restaurant, I said, was much like a urination section in a swimming pool – it just doesn’t provide the protection the public really needs.”
Dr. Richard Land, who was president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission at the time of the law’s proposal, wrote Dr. Creech and commended him for his support of the legislation, saying, “many people will live longer, healthier lives as a result.’
“Despite the opposition I got from some of my own colleagues on the matter, I’m glad the Christian Action League pushed for this law. The science now shows we were right to do so,” said. Dr. Creech.