No butts about - it Restaurant smoking ban lights up Jan. 2
Health advocates are hoping the new state law banning smoking in restaurants will inspire more public advocacy and awareness.
At midnight on Jan. 2, most restaurants, bars and other businesses that serve food and drink in Watauga County will become smoke-free, to the delight of health advocates and the many local residents who are looking forward to healthier nights out. This will happen as a result of a new law that prohibits smoking in all restaurants and bars across North Carolina.
Health officials have launched "Tasty Tuesdays" as a promotional campaign to encourage people to go out and celebrate smoke-free restaurants, said Teri VanDyke, Coordinator of the Northwest Tobacco Prevention Coalition.
"The statewide promotion is to help the restaurants during what is usually a slow time in January and also is an opportunity to thank the restaurants for being smoke free," VanDyke said.
The new law also gives local governments authority to establish their own smoking laws, and Boone was one of the first in the state to jump on board, adopting a nearly comprehensive ban on indoor smoking in public places. Boone's law takes effect at the same time as the state law, and also creates a smoke-free corridor within a six-foot radius of any public entrance.
"We supported it and are very glad," VanDyke said. "Municipalities now have the authority to do it and more municipalities are considering it. I know there have been a few around the state, and Lenoir and Buncombe County are doing it. We hope once the restaurant smoking ban goes smoothly, more municipalities will look at their own laws."
The Appalachian District Health Department is authorized to enforce the smoking bans locally, which can lead to fines of $50 for repeat violations.
"The new smoke-free law will help protect workers and customers from the known health hazards of secondhand smoke, and may encourage many folks to eat out more than ever, now that doing so will be safer," said Danny Staley, Health Director of the Appalachian District Health Department.
The law requires enclosed areas of almost all restaurants and bars to be smoke-free effective Jan. 2. Smoking is also banned in enclosed areas of hotels, motels, and inns if food and drink are prepared there.
Smoking is permitted in 20 percent of guest rooms in lodging establishments; cigar bars that meet specific requirements; private clubs, country clubs or organizations with selected membership that are operated by the membership, have non-profit status, and provide restricted food and lodging services; and establishments that are exempt from the state's sanitation laws.
Hookah Koncepts, a hookah bar in downtown Boone whose owners lobbied against the law, would appear to be exempt from the state law. The new smoking law in Boone would also permit "cigar bars" and tobacco shops if the smoke doesn't migrate to other enclosed areas where smoking is otherwise prohibited. Calls to Hookah Koncepts were not returned as of press time.
For more information about the law or to report a violation, visit http://www.smokefree.nc.gov or call the CARE-LINE at 1-800-662-7030. Information is also available by calling the health department at (828) 264-4995.