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New smoking bill is a matter of public health

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

When the state’s new smoking bill goes into effect on Jan. 2, 2010, smoking will be prohibited in all state government buildings and vehicles as well as public restaurants and bars.

The measure is a breath of fresh air for North Carolina citizens.

While some may argue smoking is an individual right—and one the government shouldn’t get involved in—the reality is smoking in public affects far more than just the person puffing on a cigarette.

As outlined in the bill, plenty of research has been done that shows secondhand smoke causes cancer, heart disease and asthma. Since, as determined by the United States Surgeon General, there is scientific evidence there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke, it makes sense that, in the interest of public health and safety, smoking be prohibited in public places like restaurants and bars.

And, with more and more people quitting smoking every day, the timing of such a measure now is good.

While the government has mandated the smoking policy of restaurants and bars, it would be good for other business owners to evaluate their smoking policies as well.

Is your environment putting others’ health at risk? Are there other, safer ways to meet the needs of smoking customers and employees, like creating a covered, safe location outdoors?

Although the change doesn’t go into effect until early next year, many local restaurant and bar owners may want to start informing the public of the upcoming change now. Before the end of the year, owners must put up signs that indicate smoking is prohibited, take down indoor ashtrays and smoking receptacles, and direct anyone who is smoking after the change is made to put out a lit tobacco product.

Change is coming in 2010. Why not start sooner so everyone can breathe a bit easier?