Local Politics

State Smoking Ban Fails to Light Up Lawmakers

Posted March 27, 2007 5:38 p.m. EDT
Updated March 27, 2007 8:25 p.m. EDT

— A smoking ban is in danger of being snuffed out by state lawmakers a week after it passed a key committee vote.

House Bill 259, which would ban smoking in all indoor workplaces, including restaurants and bars, gained momentum last Tueasday when the House Judiciary Committee approved it by a 9-4 vote.

Smoking opponents called the bill historic, noting North Carolina's heritage as a tobacco state.

Debate on the House floor has been postponed to give House Majority Leader Hugh Holliman time to round up enough votes to keep the smoking ban alive.

"We want to be open-minded and work with everybody, but we don't want to water down the bill so much it doesn't mean anything," said Holliman, D-Gaston. "I think we'll get there. It's just a matter of we've got to get a lot of people more comfortable with the bill."

Tobacco interests want to exempt stand-alone bars from the ban, and some lawmakers said every property owner should have the right to make the choice whether to allow smoking.

Holliman admitted that to bet the bill passed, he might have to compromise and give bars the exemption they seek.

Further compromise might be needed to get the bill through the Senate as well, lawmakers said.

Twenty-two other states and Washington, D.C., already have banned indoor smoking.