United States' leading tobacco-producing state, North Carolina's governor has brought to an end its cigarette legacy by signing a statewide indoor smoking ban into law on Tuesday.
"This is a historic day for North Carolina," Governor Bev Perdue said. "But more important than the history that we are making is the positive impact we are having on public health.
Advertisement"By banning smoking in our restaurants and bars, we will greatly reduce the dangers of secondhand smoke and lower health care costs for families," Perdue said.
North Carolina joins more than 30 other US states that have similar laws. Virginia, another state with a centuries-old tobacco-growing tradition, adopted a ban in March.
The new law prohibits smoking in restaurants and bars, with the exception of private clubs and cigar bars.
The law, which takes effect in January, authorizes fines of up to 50 dollars for people who smoke after being asked to stop, and up to 200 dollars for managers of establishments who have twice been warned to enforce the law.
The law's supporters say it will protect people from the adverse health effects of second-hand smoke, which the US Surgeon General says causes the deaths of approximately 50,000 people a year in the United States.
Critics of the ban say it infringes on smokers' rights as well as the rights of property owners to set their own rules.
Scott Bissette, an international marketing specialist with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, said the law will hurt the state's tobacco farmers, who last year produced nearly 385 million pounds of tobacco worth more than 677 million dollars.
North Carolina tobacco is exported all over the world. "Any time you put restrictions on smoking, you're going to curtail consumption," Bissette said.