By Sarah Beth Costello
June 21, 2009
North Carolina, a state that relies heavily on the tobacco industry, joined 33 other states and the District of Columbia in implementing smoking bans by 2010. On May 13, the state House of Representatives voted 62-56 on House Bill 2, the bill to ban smoking in public restaurants and bars.
The bill prohibits smoking in all public facilities except for cigar bars, private clubs and other nonprofit organizations.
House Bill 2 has proven to be a controversial issue among opposing factors. Tobacco is North Carolina’s leading crop, accounting for $587 million in 2007, according to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services.
The tobacco industry employs 255,000 in North Carolina alone. Many say that while the smoking ban is a noble theory, it is not a feasible solution for a state dependent on tobacco. One smoker compared it to banning potatoes in Idaho and corn in Kansas.
“I think it’s a little insane that they’re trying to ban smoking,” said senior Ahmed
Hassan, who enjoys smoking cigarettes on occasion. “It should be up to the owners of the bars or restaurants to ban smoking.”
Supporters, including the North Carolina Heart Association, say this bill is a major step in eliminating the side affects of second-hand smoking. Restaurant and bar employees and customers (including adults and children) will no longer be susceptible to the harmful smoke, which contains 4,000 chemicals that could lead to potential lung damage and heart disease.
“This is a historic day for North Carolina. But more important than the history that we are making is the positive impact we are having on public health,” said Perdue in a press release from the Office of the Governor.
Individuals who refuse to extinguish cigarettes, or bar and restaurant owners who fail to implement the ban, will be fined. Local health directors, rather than law enforcement, will enforce the law banning smoking.
“I’m interested in finding out the main reasons [for the ban],” said Hassan, who said there are ways to create safer facilities, while still allowing smoking in restaurants and bars.
Hassan suggestedd using ventilation and partitions to prevent smoke from escaping into nonsmoking sections.
While banning smoking from restaurants makes sense from a health standpoint, many are concerned with the economic impact the ban will have on bars.
“I’ll be fine if they ban (smoking) from restaurants and leave bars alone,” Hassan said. “My biggest misunderstanding is banning (smoking) from bars. By the time the law takes affect — just like people do with illegal drugs and things — bars will say you can smoke but keep it (quiet).”
Not all restaurant and bar owners are concerned. Some actually think the ban will help businesses, rather than hurt them.
“I’m for (the ban),” said Eleni Fotiou, owner and manager of University Grill. “I think it will help. It may hurt us a little, but I think it will benefit us overall. I think that it will increase our business because there’s a much greater demand for non-smoking than there is for smoking.”