Local News

Local health departments to enforce smoking ban

Posted May 19, 2009 10:49 p.m. EDT
Updated May 20, 2009 12:29 p.m. EDT

— Gov. Beverly Perdue on Tuesday signed an indoor smoking law. It bans smoking in nearly all restaurants and bars. Private clubs and cigar bars are exempted from the no-smoking restrictions.

"This is really a historic day for this great state that was built initially on the backbone of tobacco,” Perdue said.

Local health departments will be in charge of enforcing the law, which takes effect next January. It allows fines of up to $50 for people who smoke after being asked to stop, and up to $200 for managers who've been twice warned to enforce the rules.

"I'm not so shocked. I kind of figured it was coming eventually,” smoker Toni Gibson said.

State health officials plan to launch a campaign to educate bars and restaurants about the new rules.

Alan Mark, manager of the Hi5 American Restaurant & Sports Bar, 510 Glenwood Ave. in Raleigh, will be among those business owners who have to adhere to the upcoming changes. He said the ban will likely inconvenience some of his customers.

“If they have that craving for a cigarette, and it's the fourth quarter of a tight game, they are probably going to wait for the cigarette,” Mark said.

However, Mark said he doubts the smoking ban will snuff out any of his business.

“I'm still offering awesome drinks and I'm still offering a great environment to watch sports. I don't think the state is going to pass a law banning that anytime soon,” he said.

An Elon University poll in March found about two-thirds of North Carolinians backed a ban on indoor public smoking. Eight in 10 said they consider secondhand smoke a threat to their health.

The number of North Carolina residents smoking has slid in recent years to match the national average of about 21 percent in 2007, the last year for which comparable data is available. By comparison, nearly 29 percent of Kentucky residents smoked.

Restaurants will have to post no smoking signs and remove ashtrays. If anyone does light up, it will be up to the bar and restaurant owner to ask the customer to put the cigar or cigarette out.