North Carolina - smoking ban scaled back again..

May 7, 2009 - The altered bill was recommended by a wide margin in the Senate Health Care Committee, where just a week ago a more restrictive bill was approved by a clearly divided panel. But the bill was sent back to the committee after Senate Democrats said there weren't enough votes to pass a measure that would have extended to all work sites as well. Democratic leaders prefer a broader smoking ban that would outlaw smoking in virtually all indoor workplaces, but it became clear in recent days that such a broad ban did not have enough votes to pass in the Senate.

The Senate health committee revised the bill so that it now applies only to restaurants and bars. Other workplaces, such as office buildings, would no longer be covered by the ban. Under the measure approved by a vote of 17-4 in the committee, smoking in all restaurants and bars would be prohibited, with exemptions for cigar bars, country clubs and similar private clubs. Covered patio areas with two or fewer walls also would be exempt.

The revised version is the latest in a long series of iterations of the smoking bill, which was originally sponsored by Rep. Hugh Holliman, D-Davidson. Last month, the N.C. House passed a version of the bill that would ban smoking in restaurants and most indoor workplaces, but not in adult-only businesses such as bars. That version angered the state's restaurant owners, who complained that it would put restaurants and bars on an uneven playing field.

If the Senate passes a different version, it will be sent back to the House. The House could concur with the Senate, or a committee of legislators would be appointed to work out the differences between the two chambers' versions.

References: NC smoking ban narrowed in Senate committee by GARY D. ROBERTSON, , 5/6/2009; Senate committee scales back smoking ban by James Romoser, Winston-Salem Journal Reporter/2009.

Related news briefs: North Carolina Senate Health Committee votes for stricter smoking ban..; North Carolina House poised to pass smoking ban..; North Carolina - ban on smoking in public places passes 1st test...