CHAPEL HILL – On the first of the month, Orange County faced two significant changes – more than five inches of water causing flood damage, along with the enforcement of the Smoke-Free Public Places Rule. WCHL’s Aaron Keck sat down with Dr. Colleen Bridger, the Director of the Orange County Health Department to discuss the Health Department’s role in both of the impacts of flooding and the smoking ban on Orange County residents.
After the devastating storm on Sunday, the Orange County Health Department sent two nurses to the Red Cross’ shelter that night. Monday morning, the Health Department focused on restaurants and pools, restoring sanitation and safety, so they can re-open as quickly as possible.
“We have two primary roles,” says Bridger. “We provide nursing support to the Red Cross and the shelter. And then this morning the focus has been on the restaurants and pools that have been flooded. We have sent teams of restaurant inspectors to the areas that have been flooded to make sure the restaurant owners know how to clean up after a flood. Most of the pools have needed to be drained and refilled and start all over again.”
Monday, Orange County began enforcing the Smoke-Free Public Places Rule.
“It prohibits smoking indoors where the public is invited or allowed and outdoors in places that are either owned by Orange County or one of the municipalities that falls within Orange County,” says Bridger. “So for example, parks, sidewalks, bus stops, places like that.”
The Health Department is promoting this rule by posting signs inside and along the outside of about a dozen buses, on billboards, and in magazines. Bridger says mainly the Health Department is mainly focused on sharing ways and providing resources to quit smoking.
“We’re really trying to pair information about the fact that Orange County public places are smoke-free, but also, if you’re a smoker and you’d like to quit smoking, here are some resources for you to quit,” says Bridger.
Bridger hopes this rule will be practiced by the public, minimizing law enforcement. A citation costs a smoker $25, but she says the rule is mainly to encourage the public to quit smoking, not punishment.
“Essentially, we are hoping that this will be a grassroots enforcement process, where somebody next to somebody else smoking says, ‘Oh hey, did you hear that there’s a new rule. You’re not allowed to smoke here anymore,’” says Bridger. “We are really hoping to minimize any sort of law enforcement involvement in this process.”
She says the public showed a very positive response to the idea of the rule.
“We surveyed folks. We got 750 responses,” says Bridger. “Eighty-percent of those responses were, yes this is a good idea, please do it.”
Resources the Orange County Health Department provides include free nicotine replacement therapy for people involved in smoking cessation programs offered by the Health Department and the NC Quitline.
For any information on how to quit smoking, call the number for the Smoke-Free OC Hotline is (919)-245-2480.
To access the Orange County Health Department’s website, you can go to www.orangecountync.gov/health.