Thursday, February 26, 2009

Of smokes, votes and folks

Tobacco's hold on the N.C. General Assembly has long been a tight one, and efforts to adopt a bill prohibiting smoking in restaurants and workplaces has come fairly close a time or two in the past, but never has had enough votes. On the other hand, the legislature has slowly whittled away at the list of public places where you can smoke -- and the Legislative Building itself is now off-limits, as are other state government buildings.
In 2007, the bill came tantalizingly close for a time in the House, where Majority Leader Hugh Holliman, D-Davidson, a lung cancer survivor, has sponsored the anti-smoking bill. In the spring of 2007, the bill failed on a 61-55 vote with about 10 Democrats opposed to Holliman's bill. A switch of four votes would have made the difference, and Holliman probably had at least two of those ready to go if he had had another couple for a majority. He didn't.
This year may be different. The smoking ban bill -- H 2 -- got its first airing in the House Health Committee Thursday afternoon and a key vote against the bill last time -- Pitt County Democratic Rep. Marian McLawhorn of Grifton, in the heart of tobacco country -- publicly announced her support during discussion. She said she still had a few problems with the bill but planned to vote for it this time.
That's the sort of turnaround that Holliman believes is taking place this time around. He cites several other Eastern N.C. legislators who he believes will vote his way -- and whose vote to ban smoking would be a symbol of how dramatically attitudes have changed. More legislators now see this bill as a public health matter and less as a property-issue matter, and he believes more Democrats and more Republicans will support the ban this year.
If he's right, it will continue a slow but steady progression in the legislature to limit the effects of second-hand smoke on those who do not want to inhale it. As outgoing State Health Director Leah Devlin reminded the House committee, there is no safe level of second-hand smoke -- and, she said, studies show that 1,600 non-smokers die each year from the effects of second-hand smoke in North Carolina. You could almost see legislators digest that somber information. That's a lot of folks.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Tobacco smoking is THE most DISGUSTING, VILE and INVASIVE habit on Earth; I know I am a smoker.

I will make no excuses for my addiction. I chose to learn to smoke. Then I chose it as a habit. I have regretted that decision for 30 years.

However, from an economist's perspective, you are necessarily confining a person to the space of their own property.......that's nearly solitary confinement because they smoke cigarettes......which is legal and taxed as a vice....a perfectly legal thing to do.

As a person, consumer, economist, and generally a person of questionable character and knowledge, I think you are pushing more people into their homes and subjugating a full 15% of the population to not paying vice taxes in bars ad restaurants.......when the bartenders and waitstaff don't get it, they can't spend it......

You get the idea

JCE said...

When the bartenders and waitstaff are six feet under or hooked up to ventilators, I think in retrospect they would have chosen their health over some pocket change.

It shouldn't be an economic issue, first and foremost, our elected officials have an obligation to protect the health and welfare of their citizens.

Anonymous said...

I'm a North Carolina native who has spent many years living in California. Banning smoking in restaurants and bars there didn't produce a downturn in business at all. So the barkeep still got his tips, free of carcinogens.

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Anonymous said...

so much for personal responsibility...NC is turning into a liberal state where everything is regulated by the government...everyone say goodbye to individual freedoms in the future...North Carolinians seem to be all to willing to go along with it these days.

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