North Carolina has joined the growing number of states imposing strict limits on smoking in public places and places of employment. The new statute prohibits smoking in state government buildings and state owned motor vehicles. It also bans smoking in state psychiatric hospitals.

In addition, smoking is now prohibited in all “enclosed areas” of restaurants and bars.

The statute allows smoking in “designated smoking” guest rooms hotels, motels, or other “lodging establishments.” However, no more than 20% of the rooms may be designated as smoking rooms.

Smoking is also permitted in “cigar bars” so long as the cigar bars are freestanding and the smoke from the bar does not migrate into areas where smoking is prohibited. The term “cigar bar” is clearly defined as an establishment that generates at least 60% of its revenue from the sale of alcoholic beverages and 25% from the sale of cigars. It must have a humidor on the premises and prohibit entry to anyone under age 21. Cigar bars will be required to make quarterly reports to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services regarding their revenues. Smoking is also permitted in private clubs.

Persons managing restaurants and bars where smoking is prohibited are required to post no smoking signs, remove indoor ashtrays, and to require anyone who smokes to extinguish his or her tobacco product. If a patron continues to smoke after being advised to stop doing so is subject to a fine of up to $50.00.

Local governments may elect to impose more re-strictive guidelines, so long as they do not conflict with the state statute. Local guidelines may include modestly higher penalties for repeat offenders.

The new law becomes effective January 1, 2010.