NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — Smoking and vaping could soon be banned in public places in New Hanover County. The Health and Human Services Board voted to pass a new rule Tuesday.
On December 3, the New Hanover County Health and Human Services Board asked for public input on a potential smoking and vaping ban. During a two week period, they received 193 comments online. However, at a public hearing Tuesday at 8:00 a.m., only three people came out to voice their opinions.
“I don’t really feel like it’s public knowledge just yet, I feel like it’s being kept under wraps a little bit more,” said one smoker in Downtown Wilmington, who said this was the first he had heard about the potential ban.
The new rule bans smoking and vaping on all public property within the county, including sidewalks, parks, bus stops, and even beaches. Chris Tucker, who works in Downtown Wilmington, says he supported a 2010 law which outlawed smoking inside bars and restaurants. However, he believes the county is overstepping with this new rule.
“As a smoker, when that law passed, I was happy to see it happen because it just created a way better environment,” Tucker said. “A public space doesn’t really make as much sense.”
Others believe the rule could be a step in the right direction.
“As a non-smoker, I agree to like, especially with kids walking by or people who don’t smoke, who don’t want the after-effects of it,” said Robert Smith, a CFCC student.
After Tuesday’s public hearing, the health board voted unanimously to pass the rule.
County Health Director Phillip Tarte says county commissioners will vote to determine if the rule becomes law. Tarte says he believes this rule could save lives.
“I do think it is a well-written rule, I think there was a lot of deliberation, a lot of time spent on it,” Tarte said. “It is comprehensive, it is a very progressive rule, probably more so than other counties in North Carolina.”
If it is passed, bars and restaurants would still be able to designate outdoor areas for smoking and vaping, but anyone caught puffing in a public place could face a $50 fine.The rule will not go into effect until county commissioners vote on it, which is expected to happen in February.