North Carolina Governor Purdue signs smoking ban law..

May 20, 2009 - North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue signs into law a bill that prohibits smoking in bars and restaurants, at the Old House Chamber in the State Capitol.

The law allows fines of up to $50 for people who smoke after being asked to stop, and up to $200 for managers who've been twice warned to enforce the rules. More than 30 states have passed similar legislation.

But for North Carolina, "a state built initially on the backbone of tobacco," Perdue said, stubbing out the costs associated with secondhand smoke in the workplace overrode its heritage. Secondhand smoke cost North Carolina about $289 million in health costs in 2006, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina estimated this year.

"It's a huge marker in our state," Perdue said before signing the bill before about 200 cheering advocates in the old House Chamber of the antebellum state Capitol. "We will greatly reduce the dangers of secondhand smoke and lower health care costs for families." Carpenter Matt Swean responded with an expletive when hearing that argument.

Even one of the most tobacco-friendly states in the country apparently favors more smoking restrictions. An Elon University poll in March found about two-thirds of North Carolinians backed a ban on indoor public smoking. Eight in 10 said they consider secondhand smoke a threat to their health.

The number of North Carolina residents smoking has slid in recent years to match the national average of about 21 percent in 2007, the last year for which comparable data is available. By comparison, nearly 29 percent of Kentucky residents smoked.

Pub owner Peter Pagano, who bought the business four years ago, said he expects once the law takes effect, he may see alcohol sales decrease initially, but that would be balanced by more patrons willing to eat out again once all restaurants are smoke-free. "I think that will give smokers something of a refuge," said Pagano, 31.

The smoking ban would make the Irish pub a little more authentic since the Republic of Ireland banned smoking in bars in 2004 and Northern Ireland in 2007, said general manager Annie Nice, a native of Northern Ireland. "It'll be nice," she said of the coming ban. "I don't smoke and it would save me some dry cleaning."

Reference: State bans smoking in restaurants, bars by EMERY P. DALESIO, Associated Press - News & Observer, 5/19/2007.

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Click on image to enlarge..,STAFF PHOTO BY TED RICHARDSON.