Meck Co. to consider strict cigarette smoking and tobacco ban in parks, government property

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - If health officials in Mecklenburg County have their way, cigarette smoking and tobacco use will be restricted on government grounds, including parks and the golf course.

Currently, people can smoke outside government building.

The proposed ordinance would ban cigarette smoking on the entire government property in the county.

Parks are also considered government grounds.

"But in the case of parks, the county is considering going even stricter - tobacco free, not just smoke free" said Dr. Marcus Plescia, the county's Health Director. "In parks you wouldn't be able to some cigarettes. You wouldn't be able to use any kind of chew tobacco. You wouldn't be able to use electronic cigarettes."

County Commissioners will announce the proposed ordinance Tuesday evening during their monthly board meeting.

On Monday August 11th, county health officials with hold a forum at the Mecklenburg County Government Center to discuss the proposal with the public.

Bob Szal of Charlotte E-Cigs doesn't understand why electronic cigarettes would be banned.

"Personally, I think it's ridiculous. It really is" said Szal. "There are so many people that are successfully quitting smoking - using a safer method and saving a lot of money."

Szal opened his store in February and says "business is doing better than anticipated."

He believes the cigarette and tobacco ban would go too far in banning electronic cigarettes.

"There's no second hand smoke. It's strictly all water vapors so it's very safe to individuals around you."

County health officials said the ban is not just about second hand smoke. They say they're proposing the ordinance to help smokers quit, and to also send a message.

 "We want to move away from kids thinking it's cool or attractive to smoke" Dr. Plescia said. "It's about what we want kids to see when they're out at their Government buildings., what kinds of behaviors we want kids to see when they're out in parks. Parks are supposed to be healthy places - we want kids to see healthy behaviors."

"I think it should be banned" said Jamie Howie, who takes her six year old daughter to Freedom Park in Charlotte and has run into smokers in the park. "The smell and the smoke itself. I don't want to smell it. My children don't want to smell it. My daughter is only six years old and it bothers her. She points it out before I even smell it."

The ordinance would also apply to bus stops.

Currently, Charlotte Area Transit System prohibits smoking within the bus stop, or within 25 feet of the stop. But smokers still light up at the bus stops.

"Enforcement is what we refer to as social enforcement" said Dr. Plescia. "We are not the first county to do this. The big thing we've learned from other places that do it is as long as you advertise it well, as long as you have good signs up so people understand what the rules are, people will comply with the rules. We rarely see instances where police have to be called out."

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