New Hanover County commissioners voted to prohibit smoking and vaping in a wide variety of public spaces. (Port City Daily photo/File)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — New Hanover County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to restrict public vaping and smoking in certain public spaces, including bars and restaurants.

The new restrictions apply county-wide. It bans smoking and vaping in any county, town, or city buildings and property.

Related: New Hanover to vote on e-cig, smoking ban in private bars, restaurants and more

The new ordinance also extends to malls, public restrooms, childcare facilities, bars, restaurants, libraries, museums, galleries, theaters, sports arenas, retail stores, gaming facilities and office and commercial buildings where the public is invited.

Initially, the county considered applying the ban to sidewalks accessible by the public. Deputy county attorney Kemp Burpeau explained the county dropped this aspect of the proposal after hearing feedback from the City of Wilmington’s attorney that enforcement would be extremely difficult.

“Bottom line, it was an enforcement issue,” Burpeau said of the sidewalk provision. “It really made it fairly close to unworkable to try to address that.”

The rule arose out of a goal to reduce the adverse effects of secondhand smoke. Plus, vaping has exploded in popularity over the past decade, especially among young adults and teenagers.

“Safer does not mean safe,” county health director Phillip Tarte said of e-cigarettes. Aerosols produced by e-cigarettes contain heavy metals and toxins known to cause adverse health effects.

First-time violators can be fined $50. After violating the rule three times, managers of public spaces (i.e. a bar owner) can be fined $200. If the infraction involves e-cigarette use, the violation can be charged as a misdemeanor.

The new rule will go into effect Feb. 1, 2021.


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