Local News

Wilson Group Wants To Ban Secondhand Smoke At Public Places

Posted October 24, 2003 4:45 a.m. EDT

— Wilson is known for its tobacco production, but one group wants to change the city's lifestyle.

Bill Jennings' Fresh Air Committee wants to eliminate secondhand smoke in restaurants, bars and other public places.

"It's a nuisance to have to put up with," Jennings said. "I have no problem with people smoking, and we're not asking anyone to quit smoking. We just want people to respect other people when they go out in public. It's a health hazard for people."

Jeff Strange manages a restaurant that he says is filled with people and smoke just about every night.

"I think that it would hamper things a bit as far as business is concerned," he said.

But Jennings said his research shows a ban will not "filter" out customers.

"In other states that have no smoking statewide, it hasn't hurt business at all," he said.

Kenneth Kelly, who owns Liberty Tobacco Warehouse in Wilson, said a ban could crush local business.

"For some group to say Wilson County should ban things or any other area for that matter should ban things because they don't like it, I think that's a terrible idea and certainly, it would have a negative impact on us," he said.

"We're in favor of the tobacco industry, we're just against secondhand smoke," Jennings said.

The Fresh Air Committee plans to put up billboards and send out fliers. It will also meet with members of the Wilson Health Department next week to pitch the idea.

Smoking is banned in all workplaces, including restaurants, in three states -- California, New York and Florida. According to statistics from the American Nonsmokers Rights Foundation, you also cannot light up in the workplace in almost 2,400 cities. None of those cities are in North Carolina.