Smoking ban breathes new life into state’s health policy

Published 9:30 pm Wednesday, May 20, 2009

By Staff
Our state’s new smoking ban, signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Beverly Perdue, could further weaken North Carolina’s once formidable tobacco industry.
The bill bans smoking in restaurants and bars throughout the state and allows fines of up to $50 for people who smoke after being asked to stop, and up to $200 for managers who’ve been twice warned to enforce the rules.
According to The Associated press, Perdue has said the smoking restrictions are a historic step to protect health, and she supports reducing and eliminating smoking. More than 30 states have passed similar legislation. Virginia adopted a ban in March despite its 400-year history with tobacco.
In our opinion, Perdue’s right on the money.
That conclusion will no doubt anger some restaurant and bar owners in our area, and in some respects, we understand their frustrations. As John L. Smith, owner of Washington’s Southern Cheers Sports Bar, said in a Monday Daily News story, the smoking ban “is just taking away our rights. Everybody’s telling us how to live our lives.”
Smith worries the law will significantly impact his business, because about 80 percent of his bar customers smoke, he said.
It’s a shame that hard-working, honest business owners face regulations that could harm their businesses, but second-hand smoke has been extensively studied and shown to cause dramatic increases of heart disease and lung cancer in nonsmokers.
A U.S. government study released in June 2006 by then-U.S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona had this to say: “The health effects of secondhand smoke exposure are more pervasive than we previously thought. The scientific evidence is now indisputable: Secondhand smoke is not a mere annoyance. It is a serious health hazard that can lead to disease and premature death in children and nonsmoking adults.”
The report indicated that exposure to smoke at home or work increases the nonsmokers’ risk of developing heart disease by 25 to 30 percent and lung cancer by 20 to 30 percent.
Given the overwhelming evidence of smoking’s hazards — secondhand smoke included — we believe Perdue and the N.C. Legislature should be applauded for their new smoking regulation.