As of January 2, 2010 smoking is banned indoors – almost everywhere – in North Carolina. With all the debate over health care in the US today it is great to see our General Assembly taking action and doing something positive for the health of people working in our state. I know – you were either excited or upset because your local hangout was becoming smoke-free. Personally I was excited but this bill really wasn’t about you or me the customer. It is about the close to 400,000 people that worked in a potentially dangerous environment until this year. Sure – the rest of us get the added benefit of having a smoke free environment but our exposure was a fraction of what the average employee at a bar or restaurant was. The simple math – if you were to go to your favorite place (that was not smoke-free) 3 times a week for an average of an hour and a half every week for a year you would have about 156 hours of second-hand smoke exposure. The average employee that works 4 eight hour shifts a week would have over 10 times the exposure at 1664 hours annually.
All that aside I am glad because the smoke annoyed the hell out of me. We were at a local establishment this weekend the day before the ban was in place and the smoke was obnoxious. Nothing is worse than having to take a shower when you get home because your clothes and hair stink. I’m looking forward to staying longer at the places I like that are now smoke-free and maybe even trying some places I’ve refused to go to because of the smoke.
I’m sure people will complain and I’ve said more than once that I think this is likely to be challenged in the courts to get a clear interpretation of what it means and how it is enforced. The penalties aren’t overwhelming – an individual smoking can be fined up to $50 and the business can be fined up to $200 a day after two warnings – but substantial enough to prevent most businesses from thinking it would be a good idea to blatantly oppose it. That being said – congrats to the NCGA for doing the right thing. It takes courage for a state known for tobacco to take a strong stand on smoking.
More resources on this new law –