Gov. Perdue to sign statewide smoking ban

Reported by Claire Simms - bio|email
Posted by Debra Worley - email

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue is making an event out of a smoking ban in the state's restaurants and bars.

Perdue signed the bill in the Old House Chamber of the State Capitol Building Tuesday morning.

The State House voted 62-56 last week to approve changes adopted in the State Senate.

Perdue said last week that the smoking restrictions are a historic step to protect health in what is still the country's biggest tobacco-growing state. She said she has vigorously supported efforts to reduce and eliminate smoking.

The legislation was backed by health advocates and opposed by lawmakers from areas where tobacco-growing and cigarette factories are big employers.

"I think it's a good idea, and I think they should abolish smoking in restaurants and bars," said Wilmington resident Christopher Bradish.  "Smoking is literally dirty and I'm a smoker and it's disgusting. When you leave a bar, you smell like smoke."

Opponents including Republican Rep. David Lewis of rural Harnett County complained the ban took away the opportunity for restaurant and bar owners to decide how to run their businesses.

Restaurant servers like Jamie Coley of Wilmington think the ban may be hard to enforce.

"You're in a bar atmosphere, people drink - they don't think about it and light up a cigarette and you're not allowed to do that anymore and the business can get fined," said Coley.  "I think it will be definitely hard to enforce."

Some customers say the ban will completely change which bars and restaurants they go to.

"I'm going to have to go to different bars because you have to go to a bar where you can smoke outside, where there's a courtyard," said Wilmington resident James Card.  "In Wilmington, you know what, there's not a lot of bars where you can go outside."

The measure passed last week would allow fines of up to $50 for people who smoke after being asked to stop, and up to $200 for managers who've been warned twice to enforce the rules.

More than 30 states have passed similar legislation. Virginia adopted a ban in March despite its 400-year history with tobacco.

©2009 WECT. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. AP contributed to this report.