Smokers in Orange County might not be lighting up in public anymore if the Orange County Board of Health passes a proposed rule to ban smoking in public places.
The Board of Health will meet Wednesday to review feedback and make changes to the proposal.
The proposed rule is more comprehensive than any existing ordinances to address smoking, said Stacy Shelp, spokeswoman for the Orange County Health Department.
The new rule would extend the current ordinance to prohibit smoking on government grounds, public transportation, recreational facilities and retail stores.
Members of the board believe banning smoking in public places is an effective way to promote healthy living.
“Comprehensive smoke-free laws are the only effective way to protect everybody’s right to breathe clean air,” Shelp said.
Despite the board’s public health case for extending the ban on smoking, the proposal could spark public backlash.
“I don’t think they’d be able to enforce the rule,” said UNC senior Katherine Kombol. “The smoker population on campus is too big and too strong.”
In 2008, UNC banned smoking within 100 feet of university buildings, including residence halls.
“It would limit smokers’ rights, but for the greater good. I think it’s a good proposal,” said Grace Neill, a UNC graduate student.
But UNC alumna Sabrina Officer said extending limits on outdoor smoking goes too far.
“It should be up to a person to decide when and where to smoke,” said Officer, who doesn’t smoke. “The proposal infringes on personal rights.”
Chapel Hill resident Christy Davis said the town should make more room for smokers.
“If they had a designated smoking area, I’d be more supportive,” said Davis, who smokes when she takes a break from work.
In 2010, the state board put into effect the Smoke-free Restaurants and Bars Law, which covers more than 24,000 locations in the state.
Compliance with the law is high, and the state only receives about 10 complaints per month, said Jim Martin, director of policy and programs for the Tobacco Prevention and Control Branch of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.
“Local health departments did a great job of continuing to educate businesses, and the number of complaints decreased significantly,” he said.
According to the 2006 U.S. Surgeon General’s Report, no level of exposure to secondhand smoke is risk-free.
The board has been collecting feedback about the proposed rule through an online survey since Tuesday. It will vote on the rule following a public hearing Oct. 24.
Tyseer Khaled, an MBA student in UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, hopes the county will find a compromise.
“If the county can find a balance between expanding the space for non-smokers and controlling the space for smokers, it’d be great.”
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