On January 2, 2010, a new law went into effect prohibiting smoking in enclosed areas of most North Carolina restaurants and bars across the state. For the purposes of this law, a “restaurant” is considered to be any establishment that is inspected and permitted by a local health department while a bar is an establishment that holds a state permit authorizing it to serve malt beverages (e.g., beer), wine, or mixed drinks on its premises. The law also applies to any lodging establishment that serves food or drink for pay and is required to comply with state public health laws related to food and drink sanitation.
So far, the vast majority of restaurants and bars are complying with the new law. By December 5, 2010, the state had received 1,347 complaints throughout North Carolina against 605 of the more than 24,000 businesses statewide that are subject to the law. The statewide data show that the number of complaints reported about potential violations has declined since the law went into effect. For the month of January there were 518 complaints against 318 businesses compared to 37 complaints against 25 businesses for the month of November. By December 5, 2010, Mecklenburg County had received a total of 101 complaints against 52 restaurants or bars.
“With the large number of businesses affected by this new law, it’s impressive that there has been so much cooperation from business owners and patrons,” said Jim Martin, Director of Policy and Program for the Tobacco Prevention and Control Branch, within the NC Division of Public Health. “Local health departments have also done a great job educating businesses and the community and enforcing the law.”
If a business appears to be allowing smoking, anyone can file a complaint through www.smokefree.nc.gov or by calling the NC CARE-LINE at 1-800-662-7030. Restaurants and bars that do not comply with the law may receive two warning letters and possibly be fined up to $200 per day that they are not in compliance.
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