Local Opinions Mixed on Smoking Ban
Opinions in Moore County vary on the imminent statewide indoor smoking ban.
On Wednesday, the N.C. House of Representatives passed a bill that prohibits indoor smoking in state-owned buildings and vehicles and most restaurants and bars.
Private residences and vehicles, hotel rooms designated for smokers, cigar bars, tobacco shops and private clubs are exempt from the legislation.
Rep. Jamie Boles of Moore County voted against the bill, which was approved by a narrow margin.
"The reason I voted against it was because of the issue of property rights," he said.
Boles said he will not argue or disagree with the point that smoking and second-hand smoke are harmful. But he said he doesn't think that government should get in the habit of telling people what they can and cannot do or regulating their businesses.
The bill was sent to Gov. Beverly Perdue, who is expected to sign it into law. Supporters say it is intended to protect North Carolinians from the dangers of second-hand smoke.
On Thursday, local restaurant and bar managers and employees weighed in on the legislation. While most recognized that customers would be upset at first, they didn't think it would necessarily have a negative impact on their business.
Joy Chavis, manager of Mac's Breakfast Anytime in downtown Southern Pines, which allows smoking in designated areas, thought that any fury caused by the ban would eventually blow over. After all, people still have to eat, she said.
"I really don't think it's going to hurt that much," she said. "For a while, somebody might be mad but they'll come back to eat. If they get hungry enough they'll come back and eat anyway and then go outside and smoke."
Mac's employee Andrew Collins thought the ban would make things better for everyone who worked there because all of the smokers wouldn't be crammed into one area.
"I like it because we'll have more room in here," he said. "It won't be so packed and everything. It'll be easier for everybody."
Another popular breakfast spot, Sizzlin' Steak or Eggs on U.S. 1 in Aberdeen, also allows smoking.
Employee Steven Wallace is a smoker, but he said the ban didn't bother him very much. He said he has heard a lot of customers complain and said he wouldn't be very surprised if the smoking ban hurt business.
"I doesn't make me mad, but a lot of customers are mad about it," Steven Wallace said. "They'll turn around and go right back out the door."
But Wallace added that a lot of patrons who come there to eat leave when they find out that smoking is allowed.
Manager Michelle Tew doesn't buy into the doomsday predictions she has heard from customers. In fact, she thinks the ban will help business.
"All the customers seem to think that it's going to hurt the business," she said. "My personal opinion is no. I actually think it will make the business stronger. I think they're going to come out to eat regardless. I don't think it's going to make them stop eating just because they have to stop smoking."
Bars are a different story from restaurants, mainly because patrons tend to hang around for longer periods of time.
The Pine Crest Inn in Pinehurst is a late-night hotspot for residents and visitors alike, and allows smoking in its bar area. Like Tew, bar manager Carl Wood has been hearing the complaints as well, but he thinks customers will get over it eventually. He doesn't expect business to drop off either.
"I've heard quite a bit of grumbling from the customers," Wood said. "I think when the dust settles everything will be fine. I don't think it's going to impact business."
Doris Beamer is concerned about the ban, however. She and her husband, Neville, own Neville's, a popular bar in downtown Southern Pines. Doris thinks prohibiting smoking in bars will cause a lot of difficulties.
"I think it will have an impact on a lot of us," she said. "There are going to be a lot of people in trouble. You have a choice. You can come in or you cannot come in. It's going to be hard."
While Neville's has a loyal customer base, she thinks they won't stay around as long as they normally do.
"I don't think they'll stay as long," she said. "They'll go home."
Beamer said she feels like a lot of other smokers. She said she tries to be courteous to nonsmokers when she lights up, and this bill makes it feel like her rights are being violated.
"I think I have my right," she said. "I don't impose it upon other people. I don't make any money selling tobacco products. I think it's my right.
"I think I have to be considerate to other people, but I think it's my right."
Contact John Krahnert III at 693-2473 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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