Editorial: Breathing easier about smoking bans

May. 16, 2013 @ 07:01 PM

Finally, it seems like the General Assembly bit off more than it could chew.

Or, perhaps more to the point, lit more than it could smoke.

State senators apparently overbooked themselves in their ongoing efforts to micromanage North Carolina’s municipalities and the clock ran out Thursday on a bill that would have banned local smoking bans that are stricter than state regulations.

Buck Newton, the Republican senator from Wilson who sponsored the bill, would have rolled back local government and college campus restrictions on smoking. This despite the fact that North Carolina has made progress on the public health front since the state passed restrictions in 2010.

“I think if you’re walking down the sidewalk, you ought to be able to consume a tobacco product,” he said in an article by The Associated Press. “I think if you’re in a park outdoors, you ought to be able to consume a tobacco product.”

Spoken like someone who might want future campaign funding from the tobacco industry.

We think if you’re walking down the sidewalk, your lungs already have plenty assaulting them from the exhaust pipes of passing cars and trucks. And we think if you’re in a park, the goal is fresh air, not a savory dose of second-hand smoke.

It’s just another example in a frustratingly long line of power-grabs that GOP lawmakers have attempted during this session. They’ve tried to stomp all over local interests, from water resources to home inspections to environmental regulations.

We understand the rampant enthusiasm that comes with taking control of the General Assembly and trying to rebuild Rome in your image as fast as possible. And, don’t get us wrong, sometimes it’s been amusing to watch.

But enough is enough.

Luckily, not all Republicans felt the same way as Newton.

Sen. Austin Allran, R-Catawba, told AP that lawmakers should leave well enough alone if community colleges are satisfied with regulations that outlaw smoking on campus.

“If they’re happy with the way it is, what’s the point of us changing it?” he wondered.

The ban on local smoking bans seems unlikely to resurface during this session, thankfully, as Thursday’s crossover deadline – the point when lawmakers agree not to bring forward anymore legislation that has no revenue impact – approached and senators left for the week.

We can breathe easier, for now.