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When do Mecklenburg County parks, greenways go smoke-free?

Smokers puff away under the bridge on the Little Sugar Creek Greenway in 2012.
Smokers puff away under the bridge on the Little Sugar Creek Greenway in 2012. OBSERVER FILE PHOTO

Nearly six months after Mecklenburg County commissioners banned smoking on the grounds of government buildings and most county parks and greenways, the ordinances go into effect Wednesday.

In recent weeks, signs have appeared around government buildings and at parks reminding residents of the ban.

The initiative was championed by Mecklenburg Health Director Marcus Plescia. Commissioners heard criticism from Mecklenburg’s towns about being overbearing but agreed with Plescia that the ban will discourage smoking and improve the health of residents.

Here’s what you need to know:

Smoking is banned

The ban covers the grounds of all government buildings, including those operated by the city of Charlotte and the county’s six other municipalities. For details, click here. All tobacco use, including electronic cigarettes and chewing tobacco, is banned at county parks and greenways, except for 18 larger, regional parks and six county-run golf courses.

The county runs more than 300 parks, so smoking is banned at 90 percent of them. For benefits, click here.

The ban’s history

For years, Park and Recreation Director Jim Garges pushed commissioners to ban smoking at parks, but the effort gained traction once Plescia began advocating for it. Commissioners also heard complaints from residents using Little Sugar Creek Greenway and running into clouds of smoke from staffers and visitors at nearby Carolinas Medical Center.

Smoke-free and tobacco-free

Smoke-free is defined as no smoking or combustible products such as cigarettes, cigars, cigarillos or pipes. Tobacco-free is defined as no tobacco product use including smoking products, smokeless tobacco (dip, snuff) and electronic cigarettes or vaping products.

Penalty

If you smoke where it’s banned, you could be liable for a $25 fine. But that will likely be rare, Plescia said. “It will take social enforcement, where society enforces the ban,” he said. “There will be good signage telling people about the ban, and there will be peer pressure not to smoke. It’s very rare that a police officer will come in and fine someone.”

Perlmutt: 704-358-5061

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