Beginning Wednesday, March 18, two new regulations will take effect to promote a smoke- and tobacco-free environment for citizens visiting government property and the employees who work there.
Smoke-Free Government Grounds
A new Board of Health Rule prohibits smoking in all government-owned buildings in the City of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County and surrounding towns, as well as any City, County or Town vehicles, grounds, parks, greenways or parklands.
A separate County ordinance makes Mecklenburg County parks and buildings on park property tobacco-free, which includes not only cigarettes and cigars, but also e-cigarettes, smokeless tobaccos, water pipes, etc.
To learn more about the Board of Health smoke-free government grounds rule and Mecklenburg County's tobacco-free parks ordinance, visit tobaccofreemeck.org.
Smoke-Free and Tobacco-Free FAQs
What are the new regulations that passed regarding smoking and tobacco use in Mecklenburg County? On October 14, 2014, the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners passed two regulations that will become effective March 18, 2015:
- Board of Health Rule for Smoke-Free Government Grounds (includes buildings, vehicles and property owned by Mecklenburg County, the City of Charlotte and six townships (Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville, Matthews, Mint Hill and Pineville). Smoke-free is defined as all lighted smoking products (combustible) such as cigarettes, cigars, pipes, hookahs and cigarillos.
- County Ordinance for Tobacco-Free Parks for the Mecklenburg County parks system which includes parks, greenways, recreation facilities and all park property. There were two areas exempted from the parks ordinance (will not be tobacco-free) including six golf courses owned by the county and operated by a private business, as well as nineteen regional parks. Of these regional parks, two (Bradford Park and US Whitewater Center) are smoke-free from other policies and three (Freedom Park, Matthews Sportsplex and Reedy Creek Park) will be tobacco free during special events. Tobacco-free is defined as all smoking products, as well as smokeless products (chew, dip, snuff) and electronic cigarettes.
What does this mean for people visiting or working on government grounds? Smoking will be prohibited for all visitors and employees on all county- and city-owned, leased, and managed grounds, both inside and outside.
Will there be any designated smoking areas on government or city properties? No, there will be no designated smoking areas. Smoking will be prohibited on all government and city properties within Mecklenburg County.
Is smoking now illegal in public? No. Smoking and using tobacco is still legal. These regulations only apply to government grounds and county parks.
Where can I smoke? Sidewalks or “rights of way” that are adjacent to city, town and state roads are not covered by the regulations. Sidewalks within the parks (on park property) are covered by the Tobacco-Free Parks Ordinance but not sidewalks adjacent to roads or streets.
What is the difference between smoke free and tobacco free?
Smoke-free is defined as all lit smoking products such as cigarettes, cigars, pipes, hookahs and cigarillos.
Tobacco-free is defined as the use of all smoking products, as well as smokeless products (chew, dip, snuff) and electronic cigarettes or vapor products.
When do these laws and policies go into effect? March 18, 2015
Which government facilities and grounds are covered? The policy covers all government-owned, leased and managed grounds, including but not limited to:
- Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center
Mecklenburg County Courthouse
- Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department facilities and jails
- Charlotte Fire Department stations
- CATS transit centers and covered bus stops
- CRVA properties
- Charlotte Convention Center
- Time Warner Cable Arena - The current designated smoking area will be removed on March 18.
- NASCAR Hall of Fame - Buffalo Wild Wings will also be smoke-free since it is located on City-owned grounds.
- Bojangles' Coliseum
- Ovens Auditorium
NOTE: Charlotte Douglas International Airport is exempt from the Board of Health smoke-free rule at this time. Visitors, airline employees and airport employees should continue to follow the current airport smoking policy.
How will these regulations be enforced? The key to implementing these regulations is signage and communication. People cannot follow a policy unless they know about it. The county will work to strategically place signage on these properties, as well as communicate with all county and municipal employees and the public. Most outdoor policies depend upon the cooperation of the public – generally those who frequent the areas. Since most people will refrain from smoking if they know a smoke-free policy is in place, the best way to enhance enforcement is to educate the public and affected employees about the policy early and often in the implementation process.
However, both the Rule and the Ordinance do contain a civil penalty for violations after education and warnings take place. This penalty is a $25 citation issued by a sworn law enforcement officer, with no associated court costs. Most communities report very few citations being issued, as most people comply when made aware of the regulations.
According to the NC Tobacco Prevention and Control Branch the State is currently receiving only 0 to 2 complaints per month about the Smoke-Free Restaurants and Bars Law. High compliance is based on education and clear communication.
What about gum, patches and prescriptions? Products designed to help individuals quit tobacco, such as nicotine replacement products (gum, lozenges and patches) and prescription medication are not prohibited.
Why were these rules created? Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of disease and death in North Carolina and is a risk factor underlying chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and respiratory diseases. Additionally, secondhand smoke exposure has been proven to cause cancer, heart disease and asthma attacks in both smokers and nonsmokers.
What resources are available to help me quit tobacco? The resources below can support individuals who need help:
NC Quitline - Call 1-800-QUITNOW (1-800-784-8669) for 24/7 telephonic support and coaching
- There are numerous community-based resources to help individuals quit tobacco.
I don't use tobacco. Why should this matter to me? Starting March 18, there will be more places you can go without being exposed to second-hand smoke.
Where can I get more information?
Phone: CharMeck 311 (dial 311 from within Mecklenburg County or call 704-336-7600 if outside Mecklenburg County)