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Smoking ban has potential to affect smoke shops’ business

Larry Webster, known as "Crazy Larry" to his customers at the Smoke Rings smoke shop, has dreamed of working on Franklin St. since he was a kid. He doesn't believe the county wide ban would affect the store's business terribly.

When Expressions owner Angela Lanza first heard of the proposed ban on smoking in public places in Orange County, she was not surprised.

But she is against the ban, and said there is no need to limit smoking more than it already has been.

“There are better things to worry (about) other than smoking outside,” said Lanza, whose East Franklin Street store sells tobacco products.

The ban was proposed by the Orange County Board of Health in September, and aims to extend an existing ban on smoking to cover any public place in the county.

If implemented, smokers could not light up anymore in places such as parks, government grounds, sidewalks and retail stores.

Despite the proposed ban, most tobacco shop workers are confident their businesses will not suffer.

“Customers like socializing and smoking their hand-rolled tobacco in the little area outside our door,” Lanza said.

“I’m sure they will still come and hang out just the same.”

R.J. Crumpler, manager of the West Franklin Street store Hazmat, said he does not feel pressured by the ban.

“I’m not worried about business because most of what we’re selling is for in-home use,” Crumpler said.

Larry Webster, who works at Smoke Rings and said he likes to smoke, agreed.

“If the ban’s underlying tone is gonna get rid of smoke shops, I don’t believe that it’s gonna fly,” he said.

“I’d definitely want my big name on capital letters on the front page to petition the ban.”

Stacy Shelp, spokeswoman for the Orange County Health Department, said the ban would be implemented after educating the public about the new rule, posting signs, removing ashtrays and coordinating with different enforcement agencies.

According to a recent survey of local officials by the board, more than 90 percent of respondents support the proposed ban.

On Oct. 24, the board will discuss and vote on the proposed ban on what has long been one of North Carolina’s most important industries.

The tobacco industry has an economic impact of more than $7 billion in North Carolina.

North Carolina also accounts for about 38 percent of the total jobs in the U.S. tobacco industry, according to the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Travis Maynor, a Chapel Hill resident and smoker, said he thinks the proposed ban is ridiculous.

“I understand prohibiting smoking in certain areas, like in front of business properties,” he said.

“But this ban has too much control.”

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Chapel Hill resident John Hansen, who is a regular customer at Expressions, said the ban would not stop his consumption.

“The ban is a terrible idea,” Hansen said.

“Nothing can make me more supportive.”

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The Daily Tar Heel Victory Paper for November 20, 2023