Local News

Durham considers expanding public smoking ban

Posted November 23, 2011

— The reminders of Durham's tobacco history are all around the Bull City with names such as Brightleaf, Liggett & Myers and Lucky Strike.

But as awareness of the dangers of cigarette smoke and second-hand smoke spreads, that history is fading.

"I'm old enough to remember when people smoked in grocery stores and shopping centers and those kinds of things," Durham County Health Director Gayle Harris said Wednesday.

That all changed in 1993 when leaders passed a smoking ordinance limiting where smokers could smoke in public. The restrictions were tightened even more several years ago when a state law went into effect, banning smoking in restaurants.

The state also gives local governments more authority to ban smoking in other places. Now, Harris is leading the charge to do just that.

"We are touted as the City of Medicine, and we would like to be the community of health," Harris said.

The Durham City Council and county Board of Commissioners are considering a ban on smoking at public places, such as playgrounds and recreational facilities, or within 150 feet of them, enforced by up to a $50 fine.

Durham resident and mother J'Ingrid Mathis likes the idea.

"It's a public health issue for all of us, so if we can protect our young kids, it's a great thing," she said.

The proposed ban would also cover city and county buildings, along with the sidewalks outside them as well as bus stops and the transit station.

"We chose the sidewalks and bus stops, because a lot of the vulnerable populations are there,” Harris said.

Some people are saying the proposal goes too far.

"They've already banned smoking in most other places, but to not be able to smoke in a public area – I disagree with that," said Durham resident Kevin Boggs.

Harris says limiting where people can smoke is a matter of protecting the community.

"It's also not fair to expose people to secondhand smoke," Harris said.

Now, she'll wait to see if local leaders agree.

The City Council discussed the idea this week, but didn't vote on it. Commissioners could start discussions as early as next month. The proposal would need approval from both bodies to become law.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • quaten Nov 24, 2011

    Let's start with a show of hands from the Durham City Council and county Board of Commissioners - how many smokers on that staff and on the public payroll?

  • nanasix Nov 24, 2011

    This is a crock for sure. What happened to "Freedom"? What happened to those of us that are senior citizens when both of our parents smoked, even while pregnant? I've know several that died of lung cancer that never smoked a day in their life, nor did their parents. What happens to the income from the best money making product in N.Carolina? I was told back in the 60's & 70's that if I'd throw away my cigarettes I wouldn't be sick so often, and wouldn't have asthma. I even had a doctor put me on oxygen in the early 80's after 11 days in the hospital, and said I'd be on it the rest of my life. Well she was wrong,I still smoke at 72, I no longer have asthma, and I had the oxygen removed from my home a week after it was installed. I have allergies, I'm allergic to perfumes, aftershaves, certain cleaning items, powders, fabric softners, etc.and I take an allergy shot every 4 days. I haven't been hospitalized since the 80's and I still smoke 2 packs a day. I understand that it bothers oth

  • quaten Nov 24, 2011

    A rule on second hand fragrance - surely someone will be allergic to you if you risk wearing too much perfume in public.

    A rule on second hand nature - God forbid you have poison ivey growing on your property, or perhaps pine pollen blowing into a neighbors yard.

    A rule on second hand cooking - forsake the backyard grill that might offend a vegetarian down wind.

    A rule on second hand politics - it's highly likely the political campaign signage stuck into your property at election time will offend someone's principles.

  • quaten Nov 24, 2011

    It's much more than an issue of smoking in public, it's an issue of using governance to change the behavior of it's citizens, which if allowed, will find no boundry.

    It will get to the point where the domain of public policy is condensed to your own front door. Anything that you do beyond that point, on your own property is second hand public domain.

    Laws are designed to protect, not modify behavior. Here's a look ahead at what might be possible if this door is opened.

    A rule on consuming alcohol outdoors - In case you have a backyard party that might be visible to some abstaining neighbor, or like to enjoy a cocktail on your own porch.

    A rule on public dress - surely someone will be offended by your lack of fashion as you wear your jammies to pickup the morning paper.

    A rule on pets in public - surely someone is allergic to second hand pet hair pet if you risk walking your pet in public, or allow the pet outside.

    A rule on second hand fragrance - surely someone will be allerg

  • tceawvzwvpev Nov 24, 2011

    Im at the point in life where I will SMOKE WHERE I want to, and no one is going to tell me otherwise. I do it in restaurants all the time.. off to the bathroom have a smoke and walk right out. Screw the nanny state. They built smoking bans on LIES.. I will do as I want.

  • Relic Nov 23, 2011

    "It's also not fair to expose people to secondhand smoke." Dear heaven common sense is not only dead but someone dug it's carcass up and beat it again. Indoors? Fine. But unless you walk up to someone and get them to blow the smoke into your face or shotgun it getting "secondhand smoke" outside would be difficult. I tell you what...Let's ask the leaders of Durham City/County if they are so concerned about being "The City of Health" then do more to prevent people being assaulted, shot, overdosing, using illegal drugs, malnourished, etc. before we worry about if you'll catch a whiff of tobacco smoke from some poor person on a park bench just trying to make it through the day? How about that? What? That makes too much sense? Oh...sorry.

  • juncyard v2 Nov 23, 2011

    Rip, "Sorry, but that's actually a completely unsubstantiated claim. There is no medical evidence to back it up. You may not like 2nd hand smoke, but it sure isn't killing you or anyone else."

    Yep, scientists have no idea what they are talking about....but you...you know what they don't I guess.....lol

  • udaycoosay Nov 23, 2011

    Smoke 'em if you got 'em, just not in Durham, a city built on tobacco revenues.

  • jeff27577 Nov 23, 2011

    up next. taxing the air you breathe.

  • joeems2001 Nov 23, 2011

    I agree heavely its crazy i work ems and never been to a wreck were someone was smoking and hit someone