GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) _ By a paper-thin margin, tobacco-country voters approved some limits on smoking in public places.

Final unofficial returns showed the city's voters favored smoking restrictions by a 173-vote margin, 14,991 to 14,818.

The ordinance would ban smoking in elevators and in retail stores employing more than 25 people or with a capacity of more than 200. It also would require restaurants seating more than 50 people to set aside a quarter of their seats for non-smokers.

David Hudgins, a spokesman for the group Greensboro to Alleviate Smoking Pollution, rejected the notion that voters were sacrificing jobs for their health because Lorillard Inc., the big cigarette company, employs about 2,000 people in the area.

''I don't think it's going to cost you any jobs,'' Hudgins said. ''It's just going to give everybody a place of quiet enjoyment to go out and be happy together and get along.''

But opponents saw the defeat as an invasion of individual rights.

''I am surprised that citizens are not more concerned about individual rights than they showed at the polls today,'' said Earl Jaggers, president of the local Tobacco Workers Union at Lorillard. ''This could have a snowball effect.''