Here’s an op-ed penned by Hugh Holliman on why he introduced a second hand smoke bill.
The Davidson Democrat introduced the measure – the “Prohibit Smoking in Public and Work Places” – on the first day of the session.
I have never been a smoker, but I grew up in North Carolina when it was home to the largest cigarette makers in the nation and maybe even the world. I understand what tobacco has meant to this state, its economy and our institutions.
I have also seen the horrifying damage it can do. I am a two-time survivor of lung cancer, a disease caused quite possibly by secondhand smoke. The same disease killed my sister.
It is senseless and unfair for our state to continue to allow this threat to our health to go unchecked. As a state lawmaker, it is my job to improve the lives of the people of this state and one clear way to do that is to eliminate smoking in the workplaces and public places of North Carolina.
I propose this not as a simple matter of preference for the majority of us who are non-smokers. This is clearly nothing short of a threat to public health. None of us should have to breathe in the carcinogens and poisons of secondhand smoke.
In a groundbreaking report issued in June 2006, U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona stated, “The debate is over. The science is clear: Secondhand smoke is not a mere annoyance, but a serious health hazard that causes premature death and disease in children and nonsmoking adults.” The report also states that that there is no safe level of exposure because secondhand smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, 69 of which are known to cause cancer in humans.
My first act upon returning to Raleigh for the 2009 legislative session, was to introduce a strong bill to make all workplaces, restaurants and bars in the state smoke-free. It’s time North Carolina joined the growing movement across our nation to protect the rights of our citizens to breathe clean, smoke-free air. No one should have to risk their health as a condition of employment or while enjoying a night out.
Businesses have nothing to fear from such a law, despite arguments to the contrary. Dozens of studies and hard economic data have shown that smoke-free laws do not harm sales or employment in restaurants and bars and sometimes have a positive impact. As a business owner, I am sensitive to concerns about excessive regulation and private property rights, but when it comes to health and safety, government has an obligation to protect the public and workers when businesses fail to do so.
Generally, the people of this state would never stand by while a business continually threatened its workers with the emission of toxic fumes. But unlike other occupational hazards, which may be costly or complicated to remove, secondhand smoke exposure is completely unnecessary and easily eliminated. We simply ask smokers to refrain from smoking inside where they are harming others.
Twenty four states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico have taken strong action to protect their citizens from secondhand smoke. Why shouldn’t we? I ask that you join me in supporting this measure. Your health and the health of our families is at stake.