First Posted: 5/11/2009
RALEIGH A bill to ban smoking in North Carolinas restaurants and bars was expected to be approved by the N.C. Senate Monday night, but without the blessings of a Surry County lawmaker.
I will vote no on that, Sen. Don East of Pilot Mountain said just hours before a scheduled decision in Raleigh. It was anticipated that the state Senate would give final approval to the legislation seen as a health-protection issue, on the heels of the House of Representatives earlier approving a bill to ban smoking in all public places last month.
While East says he understands the problems second-hand smoke causes to people with respiratory and other conditions, he believes the anti-smoking measure is a governmental infringement on the establishments targeted.
Well, to my way of thinking, this is private business, this is private enterprise every restaurant and bar owner can today hang a sign on the door that says no smoking, the local senator explained.
Theres plenty of places that have done that already and I dont think the government should be dictating to these people what they can and cant do.
East believes enough businesses have banned smoking so that persons with breathing problems should have no trouble finding places to eat. In his view, the government should not get involved and instead let the marketplace work.
Anti-smoking legislation considered by the N.C. Senate was voted on last week as well, and East also dissented. The Senate proposal earlier had been scaled back from a broad ban on smoking at all work sites to include just restaurants and bars. That change was undertaken by supporters as a way to gain enough votes for passage.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives adopted its broader bill in early April which prohibits lighting up in all public places.
With East expecting the Senate measure to pass Monday night, he said that the differing versions of anti-smoking legislation from the two bodies must be reconciled leading up to a final law. Itll be something in between, the local legislator predicted.
Along with what he considers a governmental intrusion into business, East who hails from a county with a rich tobacco tradition considers the bill considered by the Senate to be another blow against a legal product.
Yeah, that does figure into it, he said Monday. Tobacco has been big in this county and this state forever.
East added, Its still a legal product and it does generate tremendous revenues for all levels of government.
Pointing out that the measure approved last month by the House is even stronger than the smoking restrictions in New York City, Im just amazed that we have come to this point, the Surry senator said.
If we despise tobacco that much, lets just outlaw it.
Contact Tom Joyce at [email protected] or at 719-1924.