A countywide proposal to ban smoking in public places has received positive feedback, though some are questioning its effectiveness and enforceability.
The Orange County Board of Health proposed the Smoke-Free Public Places ban to limit second-hand smoke — and officials believe it will garner enough support to become law by 2013.
The board has initiated a public input period from Sept. 27 to Oct. 24, and residents are encouraged to participate in an online survey about the ban.
So far, feedback on the survey has been overwhelmingly positive.
More than 90 percent of the 88 town officials who responded support the ban.
But reactions among smokers has varied.
Pete St. John, a Chapel Hill resident and smoker, said he thinks the non-smoking majority is suppressing his rights as a smoker.
“The public safety hazard of smoking outdoors is grotesquely exaggerated,” he said.
But Tea Yang, a junior journalism major at UNC, is a smoker who believes the ordinance would help her and other smokers kick the habit for good.
“In my personal situation, it’s hard for me to quit,” she said.
“With the bans in certain areas, I’m limited to where I can smoke, so that really cuts down my cigarette intake.”
Yang said she believes a designated smoking area would improve the proposal by providing an option for smokers who might otherwise violate the ban.
“Just like the cellphone ban, if they said, ‘You can’t smoke while driving,’ I just wouldn’t do it,” she said. “It would suck, but I’d get used to it.”
Stacy Shelp, spokeswoman for the Orange County Health Department, said she hopes the county will lead by example.
But the county is not the first in the state to pursue such a comprehensive smoking ordinance.
Durham implemented a similar smoking ban on Aug. 1 following a 2010 state law banning smoking in most bars, restaurants and lodging establishments.
Durham’s ban has proven successful thus far, although enforcement remains a key concern, Shelp said.
Orange County Commissioner Steve Yuhasz said unlike Chapel Hill’s cellphone ban and towing ordinance — which were ruled unenforceable by a Durham judge on Aug. 2 — the infrastructure needed to enforce the smoking ordinance already exists.
The 2010 smoking law grants local governments the authority to regulate smoking more strictly than the state.
Yuhasz is also a former smoker who believes the ban will encourage those currently trying to quit.
“I’m hopeful that the ban, when it’s enacted, will provide some additional motivation for some of those people who really do want to quit smoking but can’t quite get over the hump,” he said.
A public hearing about the ordinance will be held at 7 p.m. on Oct. 24 at the Orange County Library.
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