The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Monday December 5th

Orange County seeks to inform community on smoking ban

Orange County Health Department worker Donna King speaks with Pittsboro, North Carolina resident Sharon Flicker on Franklin Street about the county's smoking ban. Flicker, a former resident of Queens, New York, supported former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's smoking ordinances and was unaware that Orange County had similar laws.
Buy Photos Orange County Health Department worker Donna King speaks with Pittsboro, North Carolina resident Sharon Flicker on Franklin Street about the county's smoking ban. Flicker, a former resident of Queens, New York, supported former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's smoking ordinances and was unaware that Orange County had similar laws.

CORRECTION: Due to a reporting error, a previous version of this story mischaracterized the work of the Smoking Response Team. The team is increasing its efforts to educate residents about the smoke-free rule. The article also incorrectly stated where the ban applies. The rule prohibits smoking in all government vehicles and public places in Orange County. The story has been updated to reflect these changes. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for the errors.

The Orange County Smoke-Free Public Places Rule was passed in 2012. The rule bans smoking in government vehicles and all public places in Orange County.

Stacy Shelp, a spokeswoman for the Orange County Health Department, said a Smoking Response Team was created in January 2013, but began working in July of that year.

The team is composed of staff from the Orange County Health Department and volunteers ? sometimes from partner organizations like the Chapel Hill Police Department , Tobacco Reality Unfiltered and the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health.

The team is usually sent to high-problem areas, Shelp said. They not only persuade smokers not to smoke in public, but also encourage residents to speak out about violations of the rule.

“It is about empowering people to say, ‘You can’t smoke here,’” she said.

The Smoking Response Team usually goes into the field once or twice a month. During the week of Sept. 15 to Sept. 19, the team came to Chapel Hill almost once or twice a day to educate and survey returning college students, Shelp said.

Coby Austin, tobacco prevention and control program coordinator for the Orange County Health Department, said the team approaches all people, not just smokers.

“We talk to everyone. Somebody may not smoke right now, but you don’t know what they will do in the future,” she said.

Austin said the team asks two questions: whether the person is an Orange County resident and if they are aware of the smoking ban. People are informed of the rule after being surveyed.

Austin said that only 45 percent of residents knew about the rule between May and December 2013, but that the number climbed to 55 percent in the period of January to September 2014.

People are not always happy about being asked to put out their cigarettes, Austin said. She said she reports people’s reactions to the ban to the health department.

“It is important to understand the reaction that people have when they hear about the rule,” she said.

Austin said the smokers do not have to put out their cigarette when they are asked.

“We inform them about the rule, and they would decide by themselves,” she said.

Besides the Smoking Response Team, the health department offers other methods to raise awareness of the ban and help smokers quit.

Chapel Hill bus stops have information about the rule, Shelp said. Buzz Rides, a student-founded taxi company, will train its drivers to inform passengers about the rule and conduct surveys.

In October, the health department will release videos aimed at teaching people how to inform smokers of the rule.

Tiffany Mackey, a member of the Smoking Response Team, said a FreshStart class is going to be launched in October. The four-week class will introduce methods to quit smoking and offer free nicotine replacement therapy.

“It is unfair to tell people to quit but not provide resources,” Mackey said.

city@dailytarheel.com

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