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NC To Become Smoke Free January 2, 2010


Beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, smokers in North Carolina restaurants and bars will need to take their “butts” outside. The state joins 27 others in enacting a state-wide ban of smoking in enclosed areas. The step is notable because North Carolina is the first major tobacco-growing state to implement such a ban.

Michigan, Wisconsin, and South Dakota will also enact their laws at different points in 2010.

Under the NC law, smoking will be prohibited in all enclosed areas of bars, restaurants, recreational facilities, convenience stores, and hotel common areas. Exceptions to the law will include cigar bars that meet certain criteria and non-profit private clubs, such as patriotic clubs and some country clubs.

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No-smoking signs must be posted along with removing ashtrays and other smoking receptacles inside the facility. Management will be required to direct any person who is smoking to extinguish the lighted tobacco product and contact local police if they refuse. Citizens can report violations to the state or to the public health department, who is in charge of the enforcement of the law. Repeated violations can result in fines of up to $200 per day and legal action against the establishment and the owner or manager.

According to the N.C. Department of Public Health, studies have shown smoke-free laws can reduce deaths and hospital admissions due to heart attack by 17 percent. In North Carolina, this would translate to a reduction of nearly 4,400 admissions and 1,100 deaths due to heart attacks and save the state more than $48 million in health costs.

Smoking is not only a well-established risk factor for those who partake. The Surgeon General has found that secondhand smoke is also a proven cause of lung cancer, heart disease, serious respiratory illness, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). It contains more than 4,000 chemicals, including at least 69 carcinogens. Many health agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Institute of Medicine have concluded that second hand smoke causes tens of thousands of deaths in the United States and that smoke-free laws may help to prevent them.

The President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Matthew Myers, stated “We applaud the North Carolina leaders who have championed the new law, including Governor Bev Perdue, bill sponsors Representative Hugh Holliman and Senator Bill Purcell, and the North Carolina Alliance for Health. Their legacy will be better health for North Carolinians for generations to come.”