By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
August 7, 2013
North Carolina’s 2010 ban of smoking in restaurants and bars wasn’t popular with some business owners at the time, but new research published in the scientific journal “Preventing Chronic Disease” shows the law has had no adverse economic impact on overall restaurant and bar business in the Tar Heel state.
“I have always said that I believe that this is one of the most important things the Christian Action League has ever engaged in, in favor of the public’s health,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, the league’s executive director. “Studies like this one show that we were following, I believe, the direction of God’s Spirit. This legislation is saving lives today.”
Dr. Richard Land, then president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, commended the CAL’s work on the bill when it passed in 2009, as well as the organization‘s support for federal legislation to have tobacco regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.
“Thank you for your efforts to protect the people of North Carolina from the destructive power of second-hand smoke,” wrote Land. “Many thousands of people in North Carolina and throughout the United States will benefit through your dedicated service.”
The CAL is part of the North Carolina Alliance for Health, which pushed for the smoking ban and has continued to defend its constitutionality and effectiveness, even as residents of the state have come to expect to enjoy their restaurant meals in a smoke-free environment.
While the most recent study focused on economic indicators, including employment levels and taxable sales, in North Carolina and eight other Southeastern states, other research has shown the broader positive health effects of smoking bans: they reduce nonsmokers’ exposure to secondhand smoke, encourage smokers to quit, improve the health of restaurant and bar workers, and reduce heart attack hospitalizations in the general population, the Centers for Disease Control reported.
“Smoke-free laws save lives, and this study is further proof that they don’t hurt business,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “Smoke-free laws make good business sense – they improve health, save lives, increase productivity, and reduce health care costs. Communities throughout the United States have made great strides in protecting workers and the public from secondhand smoke in the past decade, but too many Americans continue to be exposed to secondhand smoke on the job and in public places.”
In related news, the N.C. General Assembly this year passed a bill requiring the Commission on Public Health to clarify the smoking ban’s implementation with specific attention to the definition of “enclosed area.” It seems some restaurants have questioned the current definition — “an area with a roof or other overhead covering of any kind and walls or side coverings of any kind, regardless of the presence of openings for ingress and egress, on all sides or on all sides but one,” and have permitted smoking in some enclosed areas even as their local health departments have ruled they were in violation of the law.
House Bill 74, the Regulatory Reform Act, requires that the rules be clarified by Jan. 1, 2014, with an initial report to a legislative committee by November of this year. However, the Governor has yet to sign the bill, which includes unrelated rule changes for dump trucks and landfills that remain controversial.
“Let us pray that the Governor signs this bill to help strengthen North Carolina’s smoking ban in restaurants and bars,” said Dr. Creech. “The ban is working well, and we want to keep it that way by preventing any loopholes.”
He said he was not surprised by the results of the CDC study nor by those of a Gallup poll also released this week in relation to smoking and church attendance. That survey showed that people who never attend church are three times as likely to smoke as those who attend weekly.
“At least generally speaking, most church goers take seriously the admonition of Scripture: ‘Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you are bought with a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies. (I Cor. 6:19-20),” Dr. Creech said, though he admitted that congregations are not always consistent in their application of the Scripture when it comes to other health practices.
“Chances are the correlation of smoking and church attendance is tied to the fact that many in the pews rightly view their bodies as God’s temple,” he said. “This is good news.”