Davidson officials to continue smoking ban talks

Oct. 04, 2013 @ 07:27 AM

The Davidson County Baord of Commissioners will discuss again next week longstanding complaints about smoking at the county courthouses.
After hearing from health officials,  the board decided Thursday to look just at the possibility of extending a smoking ban on the grounds at the two county courthouses in Lexington and Thomasville. Meanwhile, health officials will discuss smoking regulations with municipal and town leaders.
Lawyers and others have complained that they don’t like walking through smoking areas outside the courthouse at Lexington where smokers gather because smoking is banned indoors. They want the ban to include outdoor areas.
Board of Commissioners Chairman Fred McClure and Clerk of Court Brian Shipwash have expressed concerns. McClure pushed for a discussion during the board’s meeting Thursday.
“I’m not interested in a new county rule,” McClure said. “I’d like to address the county buildings. We need to move on it. We can deal with the courthouse first.”
Last year, attorney Irvin R. Sink encouraged commissioners to consider an outdoor ban in a letter to Layton Long, then Davidson County health director. 
State law gives local governments authority to adopt stricter bans beyond government buildings to other public property. Health Director Monecia R. Thomas said her staff will collect from city and town leaders their views on smoking bans. 
Many counties restrict smoking to no closer than 50 feet from a public building.
“A 50-foot rule could do the job at the courthouse,” McClure said.
“It is a gauntlet there at the courthouse (Lexington) for people to go through,” McClure said. “This is a place where people have to go. It should be a safe environment.”
County health boards can pass smoking bans on their own. If county commissioners endorse a ban, it becomes effective countywide and cities and towns can’t “opt out,”  Thomas said.
Thomas said comments her staff collects from city and town leaders could help commissioners decide if they want to expand smoking bans across the county.
Smoking ban violations are complaint driven. Fines usually range from $25 to $50 if a citation is issued. County bans are becoming more common.  Durham and Orange counties have extended their bans to some sidewalks and bus stops.  Local governments also can ban smoking in public unenclosed areas and in government-owned vehicles.
“This is mostly about education and reminding people where they can’t smoke,” Thomas said. “You don’t want to write a bunch of citations.”

Smoking Bans

Guilford County: Smokers must move about 50 feet away from public buildings.