NCAH Statement on S527

Surprise Amendment to ABC Omnibus Bill (S527) Creates Dangerous New Exemption to North Carolina Smoke-Free Law

A Statement by Morgan Wittman Gramann, Executive Director, North Carolina Alliance for Health

Today, the North Carolina General Assembly passed dangerous changes to our state’s smoke-free law. The new language expands the exemption for cigar bars by removing the requirement that they have to be freestanding structures. The original smoke-free law allowed these establishments to exist as long as they were separate and apart from other surrounding businesses and facilities. The change allows these smoking dens to pop up anywhere and everywhere. Based on the new language, they could open in strip malls next to health centers, childcare centers, churches, and other places of business, including restaurants. The new language puts our children and all our residents at risk and is a dangerous change to our state’s robust, fifteen-year-old smoke-free law.

There are few things more invasive or dangerous than cigar smoke. Secondhand cigar smoke contains the same toxic chemicals that secondhand cigarette smoke does. In fact, a single full-size cigar may contain almost as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes. Moreover, cigar smoke migrates between enclosed areas in a common building structure. Adverse health effects from exposure to secondhand smoke in non-smoking spaces in the same building cannot be eliminated. The requirement that cigar bars be located in freestanding structures is a critical public health measure to mitigate exposure to secondhand smoke.

For more than fifteen years, North Carolina’s smoke-free law has protected the health and safety of all North Carolinians. This dangerous and ill-conceived change pushed forward with no public input is a step backward for our state and puts us all at risk.

June 27, 2024