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Assessment of Local Health Department Smoking Policies—North Carolina, July–August 2003

July 8, 2005 / Vol. 54 / No. 26


MMWR Highlights

  • Among the 76 county or multicounty LHDs represented, the median number of employees was 85 (range: 15–600), the average number of buildings occupied was 3.2, and the median number of patients or visitors annually was 20,000 (range: 3,000–400,000).
  • Among the 76 LHD directors, 53 (69.7%) were nonsmokers, 20 (26.3%) were former smokers, and three (3.9%) were current smokers.
  • According to LHD director estimates, the mean percentage of current smokers among employees at the 76 LHDs was 10% (range: 1%–42%).
  • Approximately 60% of LHD directors reported their departments did not routinely offer cessation services for employees who smoked.
  • High percentages of LHD directors agreed or strongly agreed that exposure to secondhand smoke can trigger asthma attacks (98.7%), cause lung cancer (97.4%) and lead to adverse short-term cardiovascular effects (84.3%).
  • Official, written tobacco-use policies were in effect at 89.5% of the LHDs, whereas 10.5% operated with unofficial tobacco-use policies.
  • Among 75 of the 76 LHDs, 33 (44.0%) had tobacco-use policies specific to the LHD, 33 (44.0%) operated under countywide policies, four (5.3%) operated under both LHD and countywide policies, and five (6.7%) operated under the federal Pro-Children Act of 1994.
  • At 100% of the LHDs, smoking was prohibited in indoor hallways and corridors, waiting areas and lobbies, administrative and private offices, clinics and doctors' offices, cafeterias, locker rooms, and restrooms. One LHD reported having a 100% tobacco-free policy.
  • However, among those LHD directors who answered the questions, 38 of 66 (57.6%) said smoking was permitted at LHD events and functions, 29 of 39 (74.4%) said smoking was permitted on outdoor walkways and loading docks, 60 of 76 (78.9%) said smoking was permitted outside all entrances and exits, and 74 of 76 (97.4%) said smoking was permitted in parking lots.
  • Among the LHD directors, 57 of 75 (76.0%) said they were very familiar or somewhat familiar with the preemptive provisions of North Carolina's state law on smoking in public places (9).
  • However, 28 of 75 (37.3%) incorrectly believed the law prevented enactment and enforcement of a 100% tobacco-free policy on LHD grounds, and 15 (20.0%) said they did not know whether the law prohibited such a policy.
  • Sixty-six of the 76 LHD directors (86.8%) believed the majority of their employees would support a 100% tobacco-free policy at their LHDs. Fifty-eight(76.3%) reported that no single person was officially responsible for enforcing their tobacco-use policy.
  • In May 2005, the North Carolina General Assembly, in response to data indicating uncertainty about exemptions and with leadership from the North Carolina Association of Local Health Directors, amended the section of the state's smoking law, enabling LHDs to implement more stringent policies. The new law specifies that the exemption applies to both LHD buildings and grounds, including areas within 50 feet of a building.
 
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