Archived Story

Newton’s new law makes sense

Published 8:40am Tuesday, May 21, 2013

I’ve had the pleasure to know a lot of men by the name of Buck over my lifetime.

Growing up, there was a guy from here in Ahoskie by the name of Buck Bracy. He and his wife were friends of Stumpy and Margaret Johnson, my cousins and next-door neighbors back home in the Northampton County community of Pinetops. The Johnsons, to include their children – Debby and Bunky – would often invite me to go camping with them at GastonLake. The Bracys were there as well. Ironically, Buck’s daughter – Debbie – is now the office manager where my daughter is employed (Northeastern Orthopedics).

Then there’s Buck Suiter, the now retired Ahoskie Town Councilman. He served the town well, a leader in excess of 20 years. I learned a lot from him about municipal government.

My latest favorite “Buck” is Buck Newton, a two-term NC Senator representing Johnston, Nash and Wilson counties. I have never met Mr. Newton; know nothing about his family, nor his personal habits, to include whether or not he enjoys the use of tobacco products.

This much I do know about the Senator….as the sponsor of Senate Bill 703, Newton told members of the Agriculture/Environment/Natural Resources committee that it was “ridiculous” that adult smokers could not enjoy tobacco on a windy beach, a city sidewalk, or while sitting on the back of their pick-up truck on a community college campus, according to information found on www.ncpolicywatch.org.

It’s not that Newton’s bill wants to totally lift all bans on tobacco use in public places. Rather, his proposes to prohibit local governments and community colleges from regulating outdoor smoking in any manner that is more restrictive than state law.

According to the Policy Watch report, several state senators noted that their local community colleges opposed this bill, and wanted to keep their campuses smoke-free.

However, Newton said smokers were unhappy. Finally, someone with the intestinal fortitude to stand up for adults who choose to use tobacco products. We’ve been the “whipping post” for way too long now. I said years ago that there would come a day when the only place an adult could legally smoke, other than on their property, would be an isolated spot in the middle of the woods. Then, some animal rights activist would launch a no-smoking campaign there because of some scientific study that links second-hand smoke with squirrels losing their nuts.

I’m fairly certain that Newton’s proposal and my opinion will not be greeted with open arms by the health departments in the counties of the R-C area, nor with Town of Ahoskie officials that just recently banned the use of tobacco on the grounds of all municipally owned property, with the exception of the Ahoskie Amphitheater.

I can understand a portion of Ahoskie’s reasoning…especially the part about tobacco use during outdoor youth activities, particularly spring/summer baseball and softball leagues. But if I want to slip out of sight of such a contest and fire-up a Winston, I should be permitted to do so on public land fueled by taxpayer money.

As noted in the Policy Watch article, if SB 703 passes, it would force community college campuses to, “go back to the days where smokers gathered outside classroom buildings and everyone coming and going ended up smelling of smoke.”

That line of thought is typical of the anti-smoking campaign. I agree that non tobacco users do not need to “smell of smoke.” A simple compromise would be to allow smoking in a specific area, far removed from foot traffic entering and exiting buildings.

Members of a Senate committee have advanced Newton’s legislation…..it’s a piece of legislation that bears watching from this point by smokers and non-smokers alike.

Cal Bryant is Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. He can be contacted at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.

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