As we celebrate the one year anniversary of smokefree air in North Carolina, we reflect back on a very successful first year for this new law. Most restaurants and bars across the state became smoke-free on or before the law took effect with no issues or complaints. Many restaurant owners told us that they were glad for the new law since they had wanted to go smoke-free for years but were afraid they would lose business. One year later, business is up and complaints are almost non-existent. Our first year as a smoke-free North Carolina was extremely successful!
While we celebrate our success in protecting many people across our state, we must also remember that there are still North Carolinians who are not completely protected by our statewide law. There are many workplaces and public places that still allow smoking. Workers in businesses where smoking is allowed are not protected against the dangers of secondhand smoke. Children and families are still exposed when they play in our parks and recreational facilities. Everyone deserves the right to breathe smoke-free air where they work and play.
We have had concrete evidence and scientific proof that secondhand smoke causes illness and death for years. According to the 2006 US Surgeon General’s report, there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. It causes a wide variety of life threatening conditions and illnesses in children and adults. North Carolinians deserve to be protected as so many people in the United States and other countries are today.
There are some opportunities to make this law stronger so that all North Carolinians can breathe easier. Local governments now have the authority to strengthen the state law by prohibiting smoking in most indoor public places that are not covered by the current law. They can also make public parks smokefree so that children who play there will not be exposed to secondhand smoke. State legislators can also strengthen this law so that all workplaces and public places statewide are covered. We look to our elected officials to do the right thing to protect those they represent from the dangers of secondhand smoke.
Smoke Free Mecklenburg will continue to work for smoke-free air policies until all North Carolinians are protected. If you are interested in this effort and would like to help strengthen our smoke-free air law, please e-mail Patricia.Bossert@cancer.org.
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