Commentary: N.C. smoking ban is historic but only goes halfway

This editorial appeared in The Charlotte Observer.

It was Otto von Bismarck who first said "Politics is the art of the possible."

That truism was on display these past several weeks in Raleigh as legislators maneuvered over an effort to ban almost all smoking in public.

The N.C. House gave final approval Wednesday to a more limited bill, which bans smoking inside restaurants and bars. It was a dramatic accomplishment, given the prominence and cherished status tobacco has enjoyed in this state for centuries. Rep. Hugh Holliman, a Davidson County Democrat and a survivor of lung cancer, deserves particular praise for his persistence pushing this legislation. Anyone who believes he or she has a right to breathe clean air in a restaurant should be thankful.

Even so, the bill, which will become law when Gov. Bev Perdue signs it, fell short of what residents deserved: a ban on smoking in virtually all workplaces. Lawmakers should come back next year and finish the job.

We understand that politicians have to compromise to make things happen. But the logic behind this one is missing. If secondhand smoke is a danger, why should employees and customers of restaurants and bars be the only ones protected? Why shouldn't employees and customers of almost all establishments be granted similar protection?

Opponents of the smoking ban have cast it as infringement on the rights of smokers and restaurant owners. The state has no place ordering private businesses to ban the use of a legal substance, they argue.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Charlotte Observer.

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