HILLSBOROUGH — Orange County is considering expanding its ban on smoking to cover a greater range of public places including bus stops and public sidewalks.
As a part of its 2012-2014 strategic plan, the Orange County Board of Health reviewed research on tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure and existing state and county smoke-free policies.
Based on its findings the board is considering a more comprehensive smoking ban, similar to the smoke-free ordinance that took effect in Durham County on Aug. 1.
The proposed rules would prohibit smoking in county and town buildings, vehicles and government grounds and in most public places in Orange County, the towns of Carrboro, Chapel Hill, Hillsborough and those parts of Mebane within the county limits, according to a county news release.
If the rules pass, they would take effect July 1, 2013. Violators who fail to heed a warning could face $25 fines. Town and county employees and operators of public places who fail to comply could face additional penalties.
Public input sought
On Sept. 18, the Board of Health released a survey to elected officials and others about the proposed expansion of existing smoke-free rules. The survey is the first step in a series of methods to solicit feedback from county leadership and the general public on the proposed rule.
On Wednesday, Sept. 26, the Board of Health will meet to review the initial survey responses and make any modifications to the draft rules. Following the meeting, any necessary changes will be made by the county attorney’s office, and an updated version of the draft rule will be released. The public will be encouraged to provide input on the proposed rule and can do so in one of three ways:
• An online survey will be posted on the Orange County Health Department Web site beginning on Thursday, Sept. 27 – orangecountync.gov/health
• A public hearing will be held as part of the Board of Health meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 24, in the Main Library Conference Room, 137 W. Margaret Lane in Hillsborough.
• A voicemail system will be available from Sept. 27 through Oct. 24 to allow people to leave their comments if they do not have access to the Internet and/or will not be able to attend the public hearing.
After the public hearing on Oct. 24, the Board of Health will discuss and vote on the proposed rules. If it adopts the rules, it will send them to the Orange County Board of County Commissioners to vote and adopt by ordinance on at a future meeting.
The 2010 NC Smoke-free Restaurants and Bars Law (N.C. Gen. Stat. 130A-498) allows local governments to adopt and enforce smoke-free ordinances that are more comprehensive than state law in local government buildings, on local government grounds, in local vehicles, or in public places.
Secondhand smoke is known to increase the risk of lung cancer, heart disease, heart attack and lung disease in nonsmokers and according to the Surgeon General; there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.