States Mull Smoking Bans

N.C., Wis. Move ahead; Texas slows

RALEIGH, N.C.--Statewide smoking bans have gone in different directions over the past week. Legislators in North Carolina, home to RJ Reynolds Tobacco Co. and others, and Wisconsin approved bans on smoking in restaurants and bars. Meanwhile, second-hand smoke is getting a second chance in Texas, thanks to a tobacco-lobby blitz on the state Legislature.

In the country's top tobacco-growing state, North Carolina, Gov. Beverly Perdue says she will sign the bill into law. Last year, North Carolina farmers produced $686 million worth of tobacco, nearly half the U.S. output, according [image-nocss] to a report from the Associated Press.

Wisconsin legislators also voted Wednesday night to ban smoking in all workplaces, including bars and restaurants. The proposal now goes to Gov. Jim Doyle, who has said he supports it.

In Texas, early in this legislative session, a pair of state billsHouse Bill 5 and Senate Bill 544seemed likely to replace the state's patchwork of local smoking laws with a single clear ban: No smoking in indoor work and public places, including restaurants and bars.

But tobacco companies light into any measure that hampers smoking, according to a report in the Houston Chronicle. The Dallas Morning News reports that during this session, tobacco interests paid 40 lobbyists somewhere between $1.2 and $2.4 million to battle against the bills.

By the end of this year, more than 30 states and the District of Columbia are expected to have laws banning smoke from workplaces, restaurants, bars, or some combination.