Who’s Enforcing Orange County’s Smoking Ban?

CHAPEL HILL- Orange County’s new ordinance banning smoking in public places comes with a $25 fine for violators, but officials say it’s more about empowerment than enforcement.

“We are not going to take an active role in enforcing that,” says Sergeant Bryan Walker, spokesman for the Chapel Hill Police Department. “That would all be down to the Orange County Department of Health.”

The smoking ban took full effect on July 1, following a six month educational campaign by the county health department.

The ban covers all outdoor locations owned by the towns or county, including sidewalks, bus stops and parks, as well as indoor locations that are open to the general public.

Stacy Shelp, communications manager with the Orange County Health Department, says the aim of the ban is to educate people about the dangers of second-hand smoke and to encourage smokers to quit.

She says the ban should make it easier for people to ask others to put out their cigarettes. 

“It is word-of-mouth, it is grassroots, it is empowering people to be able to say something, which is what this rule is really all about,” says Shelp. “It’s letting people know its OK to say, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t know if you know, but smoking is not allowed here any more.’”

The Town of Carrboro has posted no smoking signs, while Chapel Hill has installed signs reminding residents to breathe.

But nearly a month into the ban, many remain unaware of the new law, so the health department has organized a Smoking Response Team to target public areas that smokers frequent.

Shelp says the response team visited Franklin Street last week and plans to move into Carrboro by the end of this week.

“They just walk up and down and when they see people smoking they go up and say, ‘I’m not sure that you’re aware we have a smoke-free policy here in Orange County now.’ Just letting people know and asking them to put their cigarettes out. It was very effective. That group on Friday talked to more than 100 people.”

The team is made up of health department employees and volunteers. Shelp says the response so far has been positive.

“I went out and people were for the most part very friendly. We got a lot of people saying ‘I’m completely supportive of the rule,’ or ‘No, I didn’t know but I think it’s great.’”

The health department is expanding its educational campaign to include more signage as well as advertising on local buses, but ultimately, Shelp says enforcement of the ban will come down to concerned citizens.

“It’s all of our air and we should be free to breathe it free of second-hand smoke,” says Shelp. “It’s been exciting to hear how many people are appreciative and now feel much better about being able to say that to somebody that they see smoking around them.”

The health department offers an online complaint form where you can report smoking ban violations, as well as resources for those looking to kick the habit, including free nicotine replacement therapy.

You can learn more about Orange County’s public smoking ban here.


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.


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.


OC Smoking Ban Takes Effect

ORANGE COUNTY – The beginning of the new year always brings the implementation of new laws and regulations. Locally, January 1 marks the start of Orange County’s ban on smoking in public places.

Beginning this month, smoking is not allowed on public property in Orange County—including parks and sidewalks as well as government buildings. Smoking is also banned on “private property where the public is invited.”

The penalty for violating the new rule is a $25 fine, but that won’t go into effect until July. For the first six months, county officials will focus on educating people about the new law and putting up proper signage to let people know.

The Orange County Health Department has established an Implementation Advisory Committee to coordinate the implementation of the law, with a focus on education, signage, enforcement, and cessation—that is, actually curtailing smoking activity. Cessation is the committee’s initial focal point: they’ll be working with and promoting the state’s NC Quitline, a free resource to help residents stop smoking.