First Posted: 12/28/2009
Smoking sections and ashtrays in restaurants and bars will become a thing of the past on Saturday as a new smoking ban goes into effect across the state.
Starting Jan. 2, North Carolina House Bill 2 will become law, which requires North Carolina restaurants and bars to be smoke free indoors. This in some instances includes other venues. Donna Parks, tobacco free coordinator for the Surry County Health and Nutrition Center, said smoking is prohibited in any venue that serves food and is inspected by the health department or is ABC permitted.
Also as part of the law, lodging facilities cannot designate more than 20 percent of their guest rooms for smoking. The exceptions from the smoking ban are cigar bars that meet a list of criteria and non-profit private clubs.
In a press release issued earlier this month, Gov. Bev Perdue said, This is a historic moment for the health of people in North Carolina. This single action will save lives and improve the health of North Carolina residents, visitors and food service workers, as they will avoid many of the health problems caused by secondhand smoke.
Perdue signed House Bill 2 in May after it was approved by the General Assembly.
A press release issued by the health department said the law was created as a response to a report issued by the surgeon general in 2006 which states that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke.
Parks said yesterday, The main reason that the state has put this law into effect is to protect the non-smokers.
Local business operators provide mixed reactions to the ban.
Danny Parker is the owner of Vanishing Point Bar and Grill, a private club in Mount Airy, and he is opposed to the ban.
Its going to kill part of my business … Theres not any doubt in my mind, Parker said.
The owner has operated Vanishing Point for seven years and now has 140 to 150 members. He said around 80 of his members smoke, and many have told him that they might just have to stay at home once the smoking ban goes into effect.
Parker said up until last week he did not know that his business would be affected. He said originally he had heard that the new regulation would not affect private clubs. He has a lawyer looking at his situation.
On Monday he got a packet from the state regarding the ban. Parker said, Thats kind of short notice I think.
Parks with the health department said the state has been mailing out packets about the ban to restaurants across the state, but some still have not received one.
Parker, of Vanishing Point, is upset that some country clubs will be able to allow smoking but that his business cannot.
Itll kill the little man, he remarked.
Health department officials said, though, that the law puts everyone on equal footing.
A lot of restaurants and bars were kind of apprehensive about going smoke free, but now that every bar and restaurant in North Carolina has to, it evens the playing field, said Parks.
Carletta Guy, manager of Golden Corral Restaurant in Mount Airy, said shes happy about the law.
Were very excited, she said. (Smoking) is just nasty. People dont like it. It turns the walls yellow.
Golden Corral has one section closed off for smoking, but this will end Saturday morning when the ban goes into effect. Guy said she doesnt think the ban will affect the restaurants business.
I think people like to go where theres no smoking, she said.
She also said that people in Mount Airy are used to not being able to smoke in restaurants, because most restaurants dont allow it. She said on a normal day Golden Corral may only have five tables occupied in the smoking section all day.
Restaurants and bars will now have to post no smoking signs in compliance with the law. Restaurant owners or operators will be responsible for ensuring that people do not smoke inside.
Parks said the environmental health department can first issue a warning to bars and restaurants. If the establishment refuses to comply, a fine of up to $200 per day may be applied. A patron who continues to smoke inside after being told not to may be issued a fine of up to $50.
People will be able to smoke outdoors as long as they are not in an enclosed area, such as a patio that has a covering or three sides.
To promote House Bill 2, the health promotion and education department of the health center will sponsor Tasty Tuesdays in January. Each Tuesday in January, health center employees will go to a different restaurant to answer questions about the ban and pass out giveaways. The list of restaurants has not yet been finalized.
For more information about the ban or to report a possible violation after Jan. 2, call the CARE-LINE at 1-800-662-7030, call the environmental health division of the Surry County Health and Nutrition Center at 401-8325, or visit www.smokefree.nc.gov.
Contact Meghann Evans at [email protected] or 719-1952.