Iredell County will prohibit smoking near its buildings and in its parks beginning next year, approving a policy less than two weeks ago that aims to snuff out what it recognizes as a public health threat.
Starting Jan. 1, the rule will forbid the use of traditional and electronic cigarettes within 50 feet of county facilities, such as government buildings and libraries, as well as in all of the county’s parks and vehicles.
The rule is intended to “promote a healthy environment, free from unwanted smoke and vapor,” according to the policy county commissioners unanimously approved at a regular meeting on Oct. 20. It described smoking as a “health, safety and environmental hazard,” adding that banning it is an “effective way to help protect its employees and visitors from the harmful effects of smoke.”
Exactly one year after the policy takes effect, the county intends to do away with the 50-foot zone, imposing an outright smoking ban on its grounds.
“The whole purpose of this is to eliminate the exposure to secondhand smoke,” said James Mallory III, chairman of the Board of Commissioners.
The rule excludes smokeless tobacco.
Smoking in public spaces is becoming less common in North Carolina, which banned smoking at bars and restaurants in 2009.
Among the surrounding counties and municipalities that have imposed their own no-smoking policies is Mecklenburg County which implemented a smoking ban earlier this year that covers the grounds of all government buildings, including municipal ones, as well as a tobacco ban at most parks and greenways.
In Iredell, the no-smoking policy will bring an end to frequent complaints the county has received about smokers who regularly gather outside the entrances to what are probably its two busiest buildings: the main library and courthouse, both of them in Statesville.
“There’s usually a cloud of smoke that you have to pass through” when entering or leaving them, Mallory said, referring mainly to the library.
Enforcing the smoking ban will fall to the managers of a given building or park, as well as any security guards and other authorities. It applies only to county property, meaning that it will not supersede whatever rules municipalities have in place for their own grounds.
It is unclear whether anyone who violates the policy would face a fine, but the policy does say the authorities will “ask” anyone who refuses to abide by it to leave the premises.
The whole purpose of this is to eliminate the exposure to secondhand smoke.
James Mallory III, chairman of the Board of Commissioners
As for county workers, they are “responsible for encouraging compliance” among fellow employees and visitors who flout the policy, and they themselves could face “disciplinary action” if they repeatedly violate it, according to the policy.
For new and full-time employees wishing to quit smoking, the county offers smoking-cessation programs.
The policy was recommended by the county health department and did not involve a public hearing, appearing only on the agenda for the Oct. 20 meeting.
As for how people will know whether or where they could smoke in, say, the parking lots of county buildings or parks, the county intends to make that clear.
“There will be signs,” Mallory said, including at the entrances and exits of county buildings.
Jake Flannick is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.