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Senate bill could snuff out smoking bans at Wrightsville Beach, CFCC

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WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, NC (WWAY) -- Public smoking bans tend to spark emotions on both sides of the conversation, and that is certainly true at Wrightsville Beach, the first public beach in the state to ban smoking on the sand. Now a bill in the state Senate could send the ordinance up in smoke.

Senate Bill 703 would effectively eliminate regulations on outdoor smoking and limit how municipalities control it.

In November Wrightsville Beach voters spoke up and became first beach in the state to ban smoking by a 2-1 margin.

"Our current ban on smoking is for litter, to control litter, and it's also a health safety issue," Town Manager Tim Owens said.

But some in the state legislature are looking to snuff out the ordinances such as the one in Wrightsville Beach.

Area smokers we spoke with are fired up about SB 703, which would limit municipalities from enforcing ordinances which are more restrictive than state law.

"They let us smoke out here last year, and it's not really causing a nuisance to anybody," smoker Chris Gramlich said. "I just feel like there's smoking on every other beach here so I don't see why we shouldn't be allowed to smoke here."

But others say the beach is a place where smokers should butt out and enjoy the surf and sand without a cigarette.

"I used to enjoy smoking, but I always noticed the smell of the smoke wafting in the wind, and when I was a smoker it didn't bother me. Now that I'm not it bothers me," Sherree Sharron said.

The bill would also extend beyond the beaches and onto community college campuses if it hits the books.

"What our smoke-free policy has enabled us to do at the downtown campus is allow people a little more space before they go into a building," Cape Fear Community College spokesman David Hardin said. "If there's people who are smoking cigarettes outside, they won't have to walk through that cloud of smoke right before they get into the building."

Bill 703 passed the Senate Environment Committee today. The bill now goes to another committee for review.

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