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NC County Commissions want state to overturn law prohibiting smoking bans

Representative Hugh Holliman of Davidson has tried repeatedly to get a state law passed that would either ban smoking in public places or overturn a decades-old law that keeps cities and counties from passing their own anti-smoking ordinances. His last two attempts failed by just six votes. But the effort got a boost last week when the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners voted to support a change in state law that will let local governments implement stronger smoking regulations. Mecklenburg County Commission Chairwoman Jennifer Roberts estimates the voice vote was split 80-20 in support. "Which I think was pretty groundbreaking in a state where tobacco has had so much sway for so long," says Roberts. "And I think so many commissions are boards of public health, and we just see the health costs." Holliman will introduce a measure today that both overturns the state pre-emption and bans smoking in all public places, including bars, restaurants and bowling alleys. Opponents says private business owners should have the right to decide what they allow indoors. However, House Speaker Joe Hackney predicts the measure will pass this year on the heels of mounting scientific evidence that secondhand smoke is dangerous.