Health advocates praise ruling that upholds NC’s smoke free law

The North Carolina Court of Appeals today upheld the Guilford County Health Department’s fines of Gates City Billiards for allowing smoking in its bar after the statewide smoking ban went into effect in 2010. In Tuesday’s ruling, the court determined that the law did indeed pass constitutional muster.

Don Liebes, the owner of Gates City Billiards, had argued that his business was really a private club and should be should be exempt from the smoking ban.

Health care advocates were quick to praise Tuesday’s ruling, noting that the smoke-free laws protect the health of both the patrons of bars and restaurants, as well as workers in such establishments.

The North Carolina Alliance for Health said in its press release:

“We are so pleased that the North Carolina Court of Appeals determined that the Guilford County Health Department was correct in the way it applied the law, but more importantly we are very happy that the Court affirmed previous rulings that found that our smoke free bar and restaurant law is constitutional and that the legislature was correct in making a distinction between private not-for-profit clubs and the type of private clubs that are really just bars,” said Pam Seamans, Policy Director of the North Carolina Alliance for Health, the advocacy group that led efforts to have the smoking ban enacted.  “Our hope is that the Court’s ruling in this case will guide their consideration of the legal challenge that is coming from a bar in Pitt County and finally put the issue of the law’s constitutionality to rest,” she said.

A recent poll conducted for the Alliance found almost three-fourths (74%) of North Carolina voters favor the state’s law prohibiting smoking in restaurants and bars.

To read the full ruling in Liebes v. Guilford County Department of Public Health, click here.

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