Smoking ban debate rages on

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January 3, 2010 5:05:09 AM PST
The debate over North Carolina's new ban on smoking in bars and restaurants was on full display in the Triangle Saturday night. Many are celebrating the new ban - but the owner of a hookah bar in Chapel Hill is not.

Adam Bliss, the owner of Hookah Bliss, says the law is unfair, and is threatening his business of two-and-a-half years.

Because of the law, Hookah Bliss should technically be out of service. But Bliss isn't having it.

"As you can see, we're disobeying what they think is the law, and we're staying open," Bliss said. "I'm expecting to eventually get cited by the Director of Health of Orange County, and that's when we're going to have to go to court."

Bliss says it is a matter of equal protection under the law, but others say not so fast.

Those in favor of the law celebrated today at Tyler's Restaurant and Taproom in Durham.

"We now have millions of workers who will not be exposed for prolonged periods of time to second-hand smoke," said Gayle Harris, Durham County's Public Health director. "Second-hand smoke is a leading cause of disease in our environment, in our community."

Bliss says he will fight the ban all the way to court. If that does not work, he says he will stop serving alcohol, cutting out about 25 percent of his earnings.

Smoking is allowed in some hookah bars provided they meet certain qualifications - including that they not be a restaurant, bar, or lodging establishment, do not serve food or drink for pay, and are not required to comply with state public health laws related to food and drink sanitation, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Resources.

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