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

This page is archived for historical purposes and is no longer being updated.

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

MMWR Introduction

Secondhand smoke is a cause of disease in healthy nonsmokers (1–6), and an increasing number of states have adopted laws prohibiting smoking in private-sector worksites, restaurants, and bars. However, certain state governments have provisions in their state smoking restrictions that preempt more stringent local laws. North Carolina has such a preemptive state smoking law, passed in 1993, which mandates that 20% of the space within state-controlled buildings be designated as smoking areas. Exemptions from the law included local health departments (LHDs), providing an opportunity for public health practitioners to enact more stringent policies. LHD directors were surveyed to assess smoking policy gains from this exemption.

Results of the survey indicated uncertainty regarding the state law, with 37% of LHD directors believing they were prohibited from enacting a 100% tobacco-free policy on LHD grounds and 20% not knowing whether they were prohibited. The North Carolina Association of Local Health Directors used these findings to work with legislators in the North Carolina General Assembly to amend the state smoking law in 2005, specifying that the exemption applies to both LHD buildings and grounds.