The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Saturday April 1st

NC smoking ban tied to air quality, rates of quitting

Improves air quality, rate of quitting

Several years ago Fran Gallagher responded to a house call while working as an emergency medical technician in Hartford, Conn. The patient was having trouble breathing.

When Gallagher arrived, she saw a bare- and barrel-chested man with his oxygen mask dangling from his neck. His house reeked and the walls were yellow.

Smoking statistics
  • An 89 percent improvement in air quality was seen in N.C. restaurants and bars since January 2010.
  • Only 4.3 percent of adults are exposed to secondhand smoke daily at work, according to data from the first nine months of 2010.
  • There were 3,980 more callers to QuitlineNC in 2010 compared to 2009.
  • There were 1,381 complaints about business violations between January 2010 and January 2011.

The man was also puffing on a cigarette.

“People with problems keep coming in until they go into respiratory arrest, and then they’ll die,” she said, recalling her parents’ last years battling with the common lung disease emphysema.

Having seen smoking’s fatal potential become reality both at home and at work, Gallagher is encouraged by data showing that the efforts against smoking in the state are discouraging smokers and reducing exposure to smoke.

Since North Carolina’s restaurant and bar smoking ban went into effect last January, air quality in restaurants and bars around the state improved by 89 percent, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

QuitlineNC has also seen a 35 percent jump in the number of participants as a direct result of the smoking ban, said Joyce Swetlick, the director of cessation in the department’s Tobacco Prevention and Control Branch.

QuitlineNC is a free call service for the state’s tobacco users to talk to quit coaches for encouragement and tips.

There were 9,840 callers in 2010, Swetlick said, a significant increase from the 5,860 callers in 2009.

More advertisement about QuitlineNC, as well as a new health plan for state employees sponsoring and supporting the organization, also contributed to the increase in call volume, Swetlick said.

She said the policies that limit where people can smoke have proven to help people quit smoking.

“The workers who were smoking stop, individuals who are restricted are more likely to seek help and people who aren’t smoking have safer places to eat and drink,” she said.

Gallagher said her son had been a sporadic smoker until he quit this past year, and now he appreciates the extra breathing room at the bars.

“When he would go into the bars when he was trying to quit smoking, it’d make it really hard for him to quit,” she said. “It’s made it a lot easier.”

For the first nine months of 2010, preliminary data showed that only 4.3 percent of adults are now exposed to secondhand smoke daily at work.

Between January 2010 and January 2011, there were 1,381 complaints about businesses violating the law in 618 facilities in North Carolina, according to the Tobacco Prevention and Control Branch.

There were fewer complaints as the year progressed.

Connie Pixley, Orange County’s environmental health supervisor, said businesses were generally compliant, and she can’t recall making a visit for a violation since last March.

Following the state trend, Orange County had a high number of complaints at the beginning of the year — at one point there were 18 in one week — and the complaints dropped off later in the year, Pixley said.

“It has made our job much easier,” she said.

Contact the State & National Editor at

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.


The Daily Tar Heel's 2023 Black History Month Edition

Special Print Edition

Games & Horoscopes

Print Edition Games Archive