The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday August 10th

County Board of Health passes smoking ban

Orange County smokers are even closer to being banned from lighting up in public.

The Orange County Board of Health passed a rule that would ban smoking in public places at its hearing Wednesday night.

Passed in a 10-1 vote, the Smoke-Free Public Places Rule would prohibit smoking at bus stops, sidewalks, parks, shopping malls and any other public domain.

The Orange County Board of Commissioners will vote on the rule at a public hearing on Nov. 20. If it passes, it will become a law.

Violators of the ban could face a $25 fine, said Stacy Shelp, spokeswoman for the Orange County Health Department.

But Shelp said the ban is less about enforcement and more about empowerment and education.

If the ban passes in November, the health department plans to spend at least $30,000 on countywide signs used to educate residents about the ban, said County Health Director Colleen Bridger.

Prior to Wednesday night’s hearing, the board heard public opinion through surveys.

Bridger said out of the nearly 800 participants, more than 80 percent supported the rule.

But not everyone was supportive.

Chapel Hill mother and nonsmoker Terri Tyson spoke out against the rule at the hearing.

“This rule is rather extensive and Draconian,” she said. “Smokers will be forced to smoke in their cars where children could be present. A bit of smoke on a remote sidewalk is much less harmful than a child ingesting it in a car.”

Board member Michael Wood was the only member to oppose the rule, refusing to accept the part that bans smoking on sidewalks.

At the hearing, advocates of the rule cited its overwhelming public support and capacity to discourage youth smoking, as well as existing trends of decreased smoking.

Orange County would not be the first to adopt this rule in the Triangle area. Durham County passed a similar ban less than a year ago.

Board member Matthew Kelm, who works in Durham, said he has seen the effects of the rule after several of his coworkers quit smoking following the ban.

“I very tangibly have seen these benefits in my community, in my workplace,” he said.

In Orange County, smoking is banned only in restaurants and bars per a state statute that passed in 2010.

Bridger said if the rule passes the county commissioners, a “soft implementation” period will begin Jan. 1.

For six months, the rule will be in effect, but it will not be enforced by police.

After the introductory period ends, law enforcement would begin to enforce the rule and impose the fine.

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