• By Yolanda Miller
  • Posted Friday, August 6, 2010

Smoke-Free Restaurants and Bars Update

Recently the N.C. Division of Public Health has posted information showing how restaurants and bars have adjusted after the first six months of the new smoke-free restaurants and bars law, which went effect on January 2nd of this year.

The report, which is posted at www.smokefree.nc.gov, shows the number of complaints filed by citizens across the state against businesses that may not be in compliance with the law. For June, the sixth month since the law went into effect, there were 39 complaints made involving 32 businesses across the state. Compare that with January, when there were 537 complaints involving 318 businesses, and you can see that most restaurants and bars are working with their local health departments to come into compliance with the law.

Tobacco use is the number one cause of premature death in North Carolina, costing our state more than $2.46 billion each year in health care costs and claiming 12,200 lives each year because of smoking-related illnesses. According to a study released last year, secondhand smoke costs North Carolina an additional $288.8 million each year in health care costs.

North Carolina is the first state in the tobacco South to make restaurants and bars smoke-free. Our new state law protects the health of North Carolinians and visitors to our state by removing tobacco smoke from nearly all restaurants and bars.

Local health departments are the enforcement agency for the law, and the folks at Forsyth County Health Department have been working very hard for the last six months and longer to educate business owners and the public about the law, and to bring as many affected restaurants and bars as possible into compliance.

The law is complaint-driven, meaning that the Health Department investigates complaints filed by telephone or online by individuals. The numbers of complaints being filed each week and each month across the state have been falling steadily and dramatically since January.

The Division of Environmental Health of the Forsyth County Department of Public Health has investigated only 63 complaints on 31 establishments. They have issued 29 - 1st educational notices and 7 - 2nd educational notices. During this first six months they have also issued 3 - 1st notices of violation, 2 - 2nd notices of violation, and 1 - $200 penalty. “We will continue to investigate complaints as they are filed with this office and take the appropriate enforcement action,” states Bob Whitwam, the Director of the Division of Environmental Health (FCDPH).

This is especially impressive when you realize that the smoke-free restaurants and bars law covers more than 24,000 businesses across the state.

We also know that the air quality in North Carolina restaurants and bars has already improved dramatically. Air quality measurements taken before and after the law went into effect demonstrate that air quality in North Carolina bars and restaurants has improved by 89 percent since the law went into effect.

Public health programs and policies exist to save health care costs, and, more importantly, to promote and protect the health of all. The smoke-free restaurants and bars law appears to be creating a healthier community for Forsyth County.

To learn more about the smoke-free restaurants and bars law, or to report a possible violation, visit www.smokefree.nc.gov, or call the N.C. CARE-LINE at 1-800-662-7030 (TTY 1-877-452-2514) 7:00 am - 11:00 pm, seven days a week. CARE-LINE services are available in over 150 languages. After hours you may leave a message and your call will be returned.

For help quitting tobacco, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).

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