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.