The fierce behind-the-scenes battle continues over legislation to protect people from deadly second-hand smoke at workplaces, restaurants and bars. Despite his best efforts, House Majority Leader Hugh Holliman has been unable to convince a majority of House members to support his comprehensive plan to protect the public health.
The opposition has coalesced around a soundbite in this case masquerading as a philosophy, that somehow protecting workers on their jobs is an infringement of private-property rights. Holliman points out that he owns a small business that complies with all sorts of government regulations, including fire safety inspections every year.
The regulations are designed to protect the health and safety of workers, just like Holliman’s ban on smoking in the workplace. No one is arguing that businesses should be able to refuse the fire inspections and let people who object find other jobs, but that’s what the smoking ban opponents are saying.
Yes, seems obvious to me, but as I may have mentioned before, property rights is just the catchall excuse here, following the money trail leads to the tobacco industry and to various other entrenched interests represented (as the article points out) by the National Association of Tobacco Outlets! Chris Fitzsimon who wrote this article makes the same point.
Here’s a nugget tucked away in the middle of the article:
The latest version of Holliman’s proposal would ban smoking at all restaurants and most bars that serve food, exempting only establishments that function almost entirely as bars and only admit customers above age 21. The bill would not affect smoking at workplaces, but would overturn the 1993 law that prohibits local governments from passing their own anti-smoking regulations.
This means that private “clubs” like the dead mule (a smoke filled horror that I frequent!) would be exempt. On the other hand, the Chapel Hill and Carrboro local governments could act anyway to ban smoking in these clubs, which to me is a compromise I could live with!
The Citizen is off to a good start. I have only seen their website (and blogs), looking forward to picking up a copy of the paper version.