Orange County Delays E-Cigarette Decision

The Orange County Board of Health will delay the vote on a resolution that would ban all use of electronic cigarettes in bars and restaurants across the county.

“Because the science is so incredibly important to this decision, I would recommend you wait and let some national vetting of this emerging science occur,” said county health director Colleen Bridger.

The Surgeon General is scheduled to release a report on the effects of e-cigarettes in the fall and the board will wait for the results of that report before making a decision.

They will also have an expert look at the report and share their thoughts.

“Little is known about the long term effects of vaping on the lung,” said director of the UNC Center for Tobacco Regulatory Science Rob Tarran. “However, e-cigarettes appear to cause changes in the lung in the gene and protein level consistent with immunosuppression.”

Tarran was in favor of the ban, but his voice was far from the only one heard, as people on both sides of the argument addressed the board.

Those opposed to the ban said the county should let individual businesses choose their own policies and that there was not enough evidence to prove that vapor from these products are harmful.

Vaping products are also commonly used to help tobacco users move away from normal cigarettes.

One resident said the ban would force people trying to quit smoking to be exposed to the cigarettes they are trying to get away from.

“By banning vaping products from area businesses, it forces me outside to be around the smokers, continue the health issues that I already have,” she said.

Those in favor of the ban said allowing it in restaurants and bars would renormalize smoking and influence children to try tobacco products.

East Chapel Hill High School student Sophie Jin said there has been a rise in young people using e-cigarettes and the ban would help solve the problem.

“This rule would restrict health risks in public areas and prevent our future generations to start experimenting with a dangerous product,” she said. “Although advertised as safe and reliable, more and more research has been published that documents harmful effects.”

No date has been set for the next time the board will look at this issue.

Ban Vaping In Orange County Bars And Restaurants?

It’s no longer legal to smoke inside bars and restaurants in North Carolina.

Should the same policy be extended to vaping?

The Orange County Board of Health is seeking public feedback now on a proposal to prohibit the use of e-cigarettes in the enclosed areas of bars and restaurants. The board proposed the new rule in January, after considering new evidence on the risk of secondhand exposure to e-cigarette vapor (which can contain nicotine and other chemicals).

You can read the proposed rule here.

Get additional information on the rule and the broader issue here, via the Orange County Board of Health.

Not everyone is in favor of the proposed rule: Orange County conservative Ashley DeSena says she’s concerned the county would be imposing restrictions without sufficient evidence of a legitimate public health threat. She discussed the issue earlier this week with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.


If you’d like to weigh in on the proposed rule, you can take an online survey, or send an email to, through Sunday. There will also be a public hearing this Wednesday, April 27, at 7 pm in the health department’s office at 300 West Tryon Street in Hillsborough.

For more information on how you can weigh in, visit this page on the Health Department’s website.

Orange County’s Public Smoking Ban Goes Into Effect

HILLSBOROUGH- Starting Monday July 1, you could be fined for smoking outdoors in Orange County.

Orange County Commissioners and the Board of Health approved a broad smoking ban last year. Now, following six months of preparation, officials say they’re ready to put it into full effect.

The ban prohibits smoking in almost all public outdoor places, including parks, sidewalks and bus stops. Indoor locations that are open to the public are also covered under the ban.

There are exemptions, but just a few. Smoking is still permitted in private homes, vehicles, smoke shops, cigar bars and designated hotel rooms.

The fine for public smoking is $25.00, but health department officials stress the aim of the ban is education rather than punishment.

According to the health department’s webpage, the ban is meant to improve air quality by limiting exposure to second-hand smoke and limit litter from cigarette butts.

The county health department provides information for anyone interested in quitting smoking, as well as an online form to report violations of the ban.

State Bill To Roll Back Smoking Bans Stalls, County Leaders Hope It’s Killed

CHAPEL HILL – A bill proposed by the state Senate is seeking to overturn local rules on smoking bans has some Orange County leaders concerned. The bill’s future is now uncertain as it was not discussed Thursday before the cross over deadline—but still it raises questions about state versus local authority.

“I absolutely do think that this bill is continuing a pattern of chipping away at local rights. It’s the general assembly saying to the county commissioner that ‘We know better what’s right for your community than you do,’” said Orange County Health Director Dr. Colleen Bridger.

Senate Bill 703 attempted to overturn outdoor smoking bans in cities, on beaches and on community college campuses. The Senate Environment Committee passed the bill Tuesday. WRAL reports it stalled in the Senate but might come-up in other forms in the future.

The North Carolina Health Alliance counts 249 local ordinances under threat by the law and most of the state’s community colleges.

The Orange County Board of Health and the Board of County Commissioners approved a county-wide smoking ban last fall and it’s slated to go into full effect in July.

Orange County Commissioner Bernadette Pelissier stands by the Board’s decision.

“The overwhelming majority of the people here want to see that we make more progress towards health because we already have a good track record,” Pelissier said. “To suddenly take that away is just not a good way to do public policy. If you’re going to tell counties what to do then you might as well run the county then.”

The ban prohibits smoking in any public place, including parks, sidewalks and outdoor dining venues. Private vehicles, homes and tobacco shops are exempt.

“We keep hearing from the General Assembly from supporters of this bill that there’s no harm to people who breath in second hand smoke outdoors—but there is harm and there is proof that there is harm to people who breath in smoke outdoors,” Bridger said.

Both Bridger and Pelissier say they hope Bill 703 does not resurface in any form.

“That’s not okay. That’s not how we work in North Carolina. In North Carolina, we know that the best regulations come from those that are passed by the elected officials that are closest to those regulations,” Bridger said.

OC Health Director Defends Smoking Ban

Additional Reporting by Elizabeth Friend and Ran Northam

CHAPEL HILL – The Orange County smoking ban is getting town leaders on all sides of the argument fired up.

Last week Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, who says he supports anti-smoking efforts, still had strong words for Health Director Colleen Bridger regarding the smoking ban. It went down at a recent meeting with town and county officials.

Mayor Kleinschmidt said: “I personally object to the Board of Health’s extension of jurisdiction over us and commandeering of our police force to handle this, so I will not be telling anyone about this, because my understanding is that the Board of Health will be enforcing it.”

In response to what Mayor Kleinschmidt had to say, Dr. Bridger released a statement to WCHL:

“I completely understand the Mayor’s concerns about enforcement.  However, while crafting this Rule, the Board of Health arranged for 6 different opportunities for public comment.  Two of those opportunities were explicitly designed for elected officials.  Like all legislation, that was the time to work with the Board to suggest ways to improve the Rule.  The Mayor never engaged the Board of Health or the Health Department staff with his concerns.  Now that the Rule has passed and it is too late to make changes, we hear of the Mayor’s vehement opposition to it.  Rather than continue the debate, I’d rather work with the Mayor and Chapel Hill Town staff to implement this Rule as effectively as possible.”  

– Dr. Colleen Bridger, Orange County Health Director

The Board of Health and the Board of County Commissioners approved the smoking ban last fall and it’s slated to go into full effect in July.

The ban prohibits smoking in any public place, including parks, sidewalks and outdoor dining venues. Private vehicles, homes and tobacco shops are exempt.