by Bob Geary
Should smoking be banned in North Carolina restaurants, bars and other public places? According to the Elon University Poll, most residents surveyed said yes. So smoking should be banned by law? By 66.7 percent to 30.4 percent, residents favored a legal ban. And if the legislature passed a law that let local governments ban smoking in public places? By 69.6 percent to 28.0 percent, residents would support it.
Maybe Elon's pollsters should've quit there. But they didn't -- and subsequent questions seemed to reveal some confusion about just what a "law" is.
So now, in restaurants, bars or office buildings, Elon asked, should it be up to the government or individual business owners to decide whether smoking is allowed? By 61.2 percent to 35.2 percent, residents said it should be up to individual business owners.
Elon asked the same question a different way: Should this decision be up to elected officials? Or individual business owners? By 59.3 percent to 37.4 percent, respondents said business owners.
Let's take stock. North Carolinians think smoking in public places should be banned by law. They also think it should be up to business owners whether smoking is banned in public places.
Next question from Elon, asked only of people who think business owners should decide whether smoking is allowed in their establishments: Would you support or oppose state government ensuring that business people provide a smoke-free workplace for employees?
Answer: Support, by 62.7 percent to 30.7 percent opposed.
Final question: Do you agree or disagree that employees in North Carolina should be able to work in a smoke-free environment? Answer: Agree, by 86.9 percent to 8.7 percent.
Bottom line: There should be a law banning smoking in public places like restaurants, bars and office buildings, North Carolinians think -- but not if the owner's against it.