N.C. to ban smoking in restaurants, bars

Dec. 31, 2009 at 1:55 AM
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ATLANTA, Dec. 31 (UPI) -- North Carolina restaurants and bars become smoke-free this weekend, the first in the Southeast to do so, U.S. health officials say.

However, the North Carolina law set to take effect Saturday does not prohibit smoking in private workplaces, precluding the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from including the Tar Hell State on its list of states with 100 percent smoke-free laws for all workplaces, restaurants and bars.

Secondhand smoke causes 46,000 heart attacks and 3,400 lung cancer deaths each year. More than 126 million people who don't smoke in the United States are exposed to secondhand smoke, CDC officials say.

In 2006, the U.S. surgeon general concluded there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke and eliminating smoking from all indoor areas is the only way to protect people fully from secondhand smoke exposure. Separating smokers from non-smokers, cleaning the air and ventilating buildings are not effective ways to protect the public from secondhand smoke exposure, CDC officials say.

The CDC's State Tobacco Activities Tracking and Evaluation System says 22 states have 100 percent smoke-free workplaces, restaurants and bars.

Laws that prohibit smoking in workplaces, restaurants and bars will take effect in Michigan May 1 and Wisconsin July 5 of next year.

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