CAL Director says it’s a historic vote and the right thing to do
By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
RALEIGH – A smoking ban that will clear the air in North Carolina restaurants and bars has won approval from the General Assembly and is expected to be signed into law by Gov. Beverly Perdue. The House voted Wednesday 62-56 to concur with the Senate version of the bill.
“This is a historic vote and a great day for North Carolina,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “This was the right thing to do and I am jubilant over the decision of the General Assembly. This new law will save thousands of lives and I am glad that the Christian Action League was very much a part of this legislation.”
Pam Seamans, policy director for the North Carolina Alliance for Health, said although the bill fell short of the goal to protect all employees from secondhand smoke, it was a significant step in the right direction.
Filed in January by House Majority Leader Rep. Hugh Holliman (D-Davidson), House Bill 2 initially would have guaranteed a smoke-free environment in virtually all workplaces except tobacco shops and tobacco manufacturing facilities. By the time it left the House, the bill included a huge loophole allowing businesses to opt out of the smoking ban as long as they didn’t employ workers or serve customers under 18 years of age, made sure the smoke from their businesses didn’t drift to other areas, and clarified via their ads and signage that smoking was allowed.
That amendment was removed before the bill went to the full Senate, but there the measure was reduced to dealing only with restaurants and bars, and changes were made to exempt private clubs. The bill passed the Senate 30 to 18 and headed back to the House, where lawmakers decided that a call for concurrence would be better than sending the bill to a conference committee which may or may not have been able to iron out differences.
In addition to banning smoking in restaurants and bars, the new law will allow county boards of commissioners to enact even broader non-smoking ordinances within limits. Maximum penalty for smokers who fail to snuff it will be a $50 fine. Business owners who don’t comply could be fined up to $200.
State and national health experts agree with studies that show secondhand smoke causes chronic illnesses like lung cancer, heart disease, bronchitis, asthma and more. Sen. William Purcell (D-Scotland) introduced the issue in the Senate as the third leading cause of preventable death in the United States. An estimated 1,600 North Carolinians die from exposure to secondhand smoke each year.