|Ban on smoking is historical in tobacco-growing North Carolina|
|January 12, 2010|
If you light up after New Year's Day in a North Carolina restaurant or bar, you could really get burned. Effective Jan. 2, fines of up to $50 will be charged to restaurant and bar patrons who refuse to extinguish their cigarettes.
"The smoking ban is an important landmark in improving health in North Carolina," says Leah Devlin, DDS, MPH, Gillings Visiting Professor of health policy and management and former N.C. State Health Director.
According to a report by the United States Surgeon General, secondhand smoke kills about 50,000 North Carolinians each year and results in health care costs that one study estimates at $289 million annually.
Devlin says the new law protects the health of employees who routinely have been exposed to tobacco smoke as well as the health of nonsmoking customers.
"The smoking ban is also important for smokers," Devlin says, "because creating smoke-free environments helps them smoke less."
North Carolina joins 26 others states with similar legislation and is being nationally acknowledged for establishing the strongest health protections of any tobacco-growing state.
"Even so," Devlin says, "there is more health policy work to be done, as further protections for all public places and worksites are needed."
Another important aspect of this legislation, Devlin said, "is that local governments will be allowed to pass stronger regulations to protect the health of their residents."
Gov. Bev Perdue signed into law N.C. House Bill 2, the ban on smoking in public restaurants and bars, on May 19, 2009. Championed by Rep. Hugh Holliman and Sen. Bill Purcell, the landmark legislation will be enforced by local health directors.
"This is a historic day for North Carolina," Perdue said, as she signed. "But more important than the history that we are making is the positive impact we are having on public health. By banning smoking in our restaurants and bars, we will greatly reduce the dangers of secondhand smoke and lower health care costs for families."