NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC – The New Hanover County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Monday to implement an ordinance prohibiting the use of combustible tobacco and e-cigarettes in New Hanover County. The ordinance will go into effect February 1, 2021.
The ordinance approves and ordains the Smoke and Vaping Rule adopted by the New Hanover County Health and Human Services (HHS) Board on October 16, 2020 and includes the prohibition of tobacco and e-cigarettes in county, town and city buildings, vehicles and grounds, as well as in public places in the county like restaurants, bars and entertainment venues.
“This ordinance aligns the expectations of vaping with traditional cigarette smoking in most public places, and protects residents from unwanted inhalation of second hand smoke and e-cigarette vapors,” said Public Health Director Phillip Tarte. “With no regulation in place for vaping and e-cigarette use, residents are unintentionally exposed to harmful substances in what seems like unlikely places, like a theater or retail store. As we learn more about vaping and associated health risks, it’s important as a community to take action.”
In 2017, 19.5 percent of US high school students reported currently using tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, and in 2018, Surgeon General Jerome Adams emphasized the importance of protecting young people from a lifetime of nicotine addiction and associated health risks by addressing the epidemic of youth e-cigarette use.
The HHS Board conducted months of in-depth research and revisions to the rule, informed by community feedback and public health guidance. The rule, as required by North Carolina Public Health law, was then approved by the Board of Commissioners through an ordinance.
Over the coming months, New Hanover County Public Health will be further engaging with municipalities, community partners, businesses, local health providers and others on educating the community and implementing the ordinance. By February 1, signage will be placed in areas where smoking and vaping is prohibited (see a detailed list in the table below). The ordinance does not apply to private residences, private vehicles, streets, sidewalks, vaping shops, designated smoking areas as permitted by NC law and other exemptions as listed.
The ordinance will apply throughout New Hanover County, including the city and beach towns. Enforcement of the ordinance differs depending on whether the infraction is vaping or combustible tobacco use, but both provide the option of an oral warning.
“Our desire is a healthy community across the board, so our first option will always be education over punitive action,” Tarte said. “We’ll be continuing and increasing our efforts in education and sharing resources on smoking cessation. Quitting smoking or vaping is the single most important thing you can do for your health. Some benefits, like lower heart rate, lower blood pressure and improved circulation are seen within two weeks, while risk of heart disease and cancer continue to decrease over time.”
Free smoking cessation resources are available through the NC Department of Health and Human Services’ Tobacco Prevention and Control Branch. Additionally, residents can call the NC Smoking and E-Cigarette Use Quitline at 1-800-QUIT NOW (1-800-784-8669) or visit QuitLineNC.com for free quitting support services.
For more information and to view the rule, visit Health.NHCgov.com.