Two major tobacco-producing states in the south’s tobacco belt are poised to adopt legislation banning smoking in restaurants.
On Monday, March 9, Virginia Governor Timothy M. Kaine signed off on his state’s no smoking ban, which goes into effect December 1.
A similar bill is making its way through the North Carolina legislature, where its next stop will be a House legal issues committee. The House Health Committee approved the measure on a voice vote last Tuesday. The bill is still far from becoming law, but this time around, there are fewer objections. The North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association supports the ban this time around. “We don’t consider it a restaurant and hotel bill anymore,”said association President Paul Stone. “The vast majority of our members are OK with a fair ban”
Talk about shooting yourself in the foot.
I’m not a smoker and never was one. In fact, I dislike being around cigarettes, since I’m highly sensitive to second-hand smoke. So I personally am pleased to know that I will be able to visit a restaurant in my home state of Virginia and not be accosted with the stale, telltale signs of smokers. Now, I’ll be able to enjoy the aroma and taste of my food, instead of someone’s cigarette, even if it was over on the other side of the room.
However, from a financial and business aspect, I am wondering why, in this dreadful economy, that two states relying heavily on tobacco farming and cigarette manufacturing are pushing to enact laws that may ultimately hurt their number one agricultural crop. As it is, restaurant business is on the decline as more and more consumers cut back on their discretionary spending and opt to eat more meals at home. Since that trend is expected to continue for some time, it stands to reason that banning smoking may actually trigger the demise of many bars, clubs and restaurants and cause others to scale back hours or cut staff. This ends up affecting an already economically depressed industry. Not to mention the trickle-down effect and what that may mean to other businesses.
Twenty-three of 50 states plus the District of Columbia have banned smoking in most public places, including bars and restaurants, but I am still trying to reconcile in my own mind how passing this legislation in 2009 makes business sense. I also wonder about repercussions down the line. And while these states have passed anti-smoking laws without any noticeable negative effect, none of them were in the middle of the tobacco belt. North Carolina is home to R.J. Reynolds, the second-largest U.S. tobacco company and ranks first in the United States in the production of tobacco as a cash crop. Virginia calls itself home to Phillip Morris, the largest U.S. tobacco company and has an equally large share of the tobacco-growing industry. Just last year, Phillip Morris relocated its headquarters to Virginia, because of the state’s favorable business climate and support for their product.
Now that same state is banning the use of Phillip Morris products in restaurants.
This is obviously an evolving story. We’ll be keeping our eyes on developments, especially in North Carolina, as the legislation makes its way through the committees. In the meantime, if you come to Virginia after December 1, leave your cigarettes at home.
- Tobacco State Virginia Mulls Smoking Ban (cbsnews.com)
- Increased Risk Of Fertility Problems In Women Exposed To Secondhand Smoke (medicalnewstoday.com)
- Health Buzz: Smoking Bans and Other Health News (health.usnews.com)
- Tobacco production rebounds in U.S. (msnbc.msn.com)