Local News

Restaurant owners worry about smoking ban impact

Posted March 7, 2009 7:31 p.m. EST
Updated March 7, 2009 10:54 p.m. EST

— A bill to ban public smoking passed a North Carolina legislative committee this week with bipartisan agreement that cigarette smoke harms health. However, some businesses aren't in favor of the bill and say being smoke-free should be option only.

Some cigarette companies also remain opposed to the bill, citing private property rights and the choice already provided to restaurants and other public places to go smoke-free.

“I really appreciate that there isn't an outside source of smoke blasting me in the face,” restaurant customer Chris Corona said.

However, the push towards smoke-free establishments is growing. Even a restaurant named "Tobacco Road Sports Cafe," 222 Glenwood Ave. in Raleigh, doesn't allow smoking.

“Even some of the smokers like it. They don't mind that they have to go outside,” said Alex Amra, owner of Tobacco Road Sports Cafe.

Amra says he is against proposed legislation to ban smoking statewide in public places. He also owns a downtown cigar bar and says business owners should have the choice whether to restrict smoking.

“I would lose all that business and in this economic environment, we don't need to be losing any business,” Amra said.

An Elon College poll of 758 state residents found eight in 10 said they consider secondhand smoke a threat to their health. Two-thirds of respondents said they support or strongly support a statewide law that would ban smoking in public buildings, offices, restaurants and bars. The House bill would also include all workplaces.

“This is a public health bill and it also deals with employees' health,” said Rep. Deborah Ross, D-Wake.

Ross supports the smoking ban and says the dangers of secondhand smoke outweigh other factors.

“What you're doing is causing a serious health hazard to people who have to be on that property for long periods of time, particularly your employees,” Ross said.

The committee approved the smoking bill on a voice vote; it heads next to a House legal issues committee. Narrower legislation was defeated in the House in 2005 and 2007. A companion bill in the Senate has remained in a committee without action since it was introduced nearly two weeks ago.

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