North Carolina may be called “Tobacco Road”, but if you’re within the borders of the Tar Heel State after January of 2010, do not expect to light up at a bar or restaurant.
Over the last few months, legislation was introduced that would ban smoking in public places such as bars, restaurants and enclosed places. The North Carolina House first passed the measure, voting at 72-45 in favor of the ban in April, and the legislation was then passed in the North Carolina Senate 30-18 on May 11 before Governor Bev Perdue made the bill law on Tuesday, May 18 during a ceremony at the State Capitol.. Bill sponsors Rep. Hugh Holliman, D-Davidson and Sen. William Purcell, D-Scotland and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Lanier Cansler joined Perdue the ceremony.
“Today is an important and historic day for North Carolina-a day to applaud Rep. Hugh Holliman and Sen. William Purcell for protecting the health of North Carolinians. I have vigorously supported efforts to reduce and eliminate smoking and this bill will help more North Carolina citizens avoid the dangers of secondhand smoke,” said Perdue. “It’s a huge marker in our state that we’re serious about having a healthy North Carolina, and that we’ll go to (all means) to make that happen. My hat’s off to the General Assembly. I have never been as proud of a body in my entire life.”
The law, which according to it’s text will be begin on Jan. 2, 2010, will outlaw smoking in bars and restaurants and all state and government owned buildings and vehicles. The law only has a few exceptions where people can smoke in publically enclosed places, which are designated smoking guest rooms at hotels, cigar bars, and private clubs, but that’s it. Huddle House in Cullowhee told the Western Carolinian that they would begin the smoking ban in August. Once the statewise band takes effect, smokers who keep puffing after being asked to stop, would be fined up to $50.
A waitress at a local bar says, “I’m fine with it, until it affects my tips. I live on tips and am slightly worried about how this legislation will affect my standard of living, in the long run.”
WCU Senior Alexandria Curry says, “I am a smoker. Going outside to smoke is fine in the summer, but what about in the winter when it’s freezing cold? Who wants to go outside during the cold mountain winter in order to enjoy a cigarette?”
Secondhand smoke, which was cited as a major reason for the smoking ban law, is more dangerous than regular smoke because it is unfiltered. Although the ban is expected to eliminate smoke in restaurants and bars, some say that not all bans turns out to work.
A sophomore at WCU who wished to remain anonymous states, “The University set in place a policy forcing smokers to be fifty feet away from university buildings while smoking. This rule is not being enforced or regulated. I still come from class in Killian to find huddles of people smoking right outside the doors. I think that it is rude and inconsiderate for people to think that they are an exception to the rule. I do not smoke and enjoy breathing clean air. I would appreciate if those who choose to ruin their lungs, do it away from the buildings where I attend class. I also feel that the university should be doing more to enforce this rule.”
Locally, the smoking ban was supported by Representative Bruce Goforth of Buncombe County. Representative Phillip Haire of District 118 (Haywood, Jackson, Macon, and Swain) also voted aye in the final vote.
(Staff Writer Catherine Butterfield contributed to this story.)