Watauga: No smoking, no complaints

Article Published: Jan. 14, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011

Watauga County had no complaints filed in the first week of a new law banning most smoking in restaurants.

Statewide, 171 complaints were filed, though that doesn't necessarily mean the law was violated. Complaints will be investigated before any warnings or fines are issued.

Complaints can be filed through http://www.SmokeFree.NC.gov, with a weekly report released by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. Local health departments are responsible for investigating complaints.

The Appalachian District Health Department is authorized to enforce the smoking bans locally, which can lead to fines of $50 for repeat violations, while managers of establishments that tolerate smoking can face fines of $200 after receiving two warnings. Ashe and Avery counties also had no complaints filed.

The law requires enclosed areas of almost all restaurants and bars to be smoke-free under the law that became 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.

The town of Boone adopted its own smoking law, mirroring the state law but extending it to most indoor public places and all town parks and buildings. The town law also created a smoke-free zone of six feet from all public entrances on town-owned sidewalks, which includes most of the downtown area.

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