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NC Smoke-Free Law Wins National Attention

April 26, 2010

RALEIGH, N.C. - If a tobacco state like North Carolina can do it, any state can. Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights is saluting the state's leaders for passage of a law that bans smoking in bars and restaurants, and the group is showcasing North Carolina as an example to other states considering smoke-free public health policies.

Pam Seamans, executive director of the North Carolina Alliance for Health, says while the kudos are welcome, there's still more work to do.

"Just as state government workers are protected from secondhand smoke, and restaurant and bar workers are now protected from secondhand smoke, we feel that every worker has the right to be protected from secondhand smoke."

Originally, North Carolina's new law would have banned smoking at all work sites, but that sparked opposition from small businesses and from some in the manufacturing industry, so the bill was scaled back.

Seamans says the goal is to eventually protect 100 percent of workers from secondhand smoke.

"About 70 percent of workers in North Carolina are currently protected by smoke-free policies in their office setting or laws in the restaurants and bars case."

Hospitality industry groups traditionally have opposed bar and restaurant smoking bans, but they did not actively oppose North Carolina's law. Opposition did come from hookah bar owners, however, even though, Seamans says, the law was written in a way that would allow them to stay open.

Deb Courson, Public News Service - NC