New UNC study on the recent smoking laws:
UNC poll: N.C. smoke-free policies supported by large majority
CHAPEL HILL – On January 2, 2010, North Carolina became the first tobacco-producing state in the nation to ban smoking in restaurants and bars.
Now, the latest poll conducted by the Survey Research Unit at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Global Public Health shows the ban is supported by 72.2 percent of adults in the state.
The poll also found 25.8 percent of the population opposed the ban, and 2.1 percent were undecided. Proponents were more likely to be nonsmokers (85.5 percent vs. smokers 30.7 percent), women (80.3 percent vs. men 63.5 percent), and more highly educated (82.1 percent vs. lower education 60.2 percent). The highest support was among registered voters (74.3 percent vs. 23.3 percent).
In addition, a large majority – 72.1 percent – said they would support a law that requires all indoor workplaces and public places to be smoke-free, while 25.8 percent opposed such a measure and 2.1 percent were undecided.
The new law followed growing concern over risks related to smoking, including the 2006 Surgeon General’s report on the health consequences of involuntary exposure to second-hand smoke. In North Carolina, it is estimated that second-hand smoke resulted in $288.8 million in excess medical costs in 2006 (adjusted to 2008 dollars).
Concern was voiced during the debate on the legislation that it would have a deep, negative economic impact on restaurants and bars. However, the new poll suggests the opposite may be true, despite the challenging economic times – 38.8 percent of adults said they dine out more since the ban took effect, 50.4 percent said it has made no difference, and only 10.6 percent said they go out less often.
People who said they dine out more tended to be nonsmokers (50.6 percent vs. smokers 2 percent) and college educated (44.8 percent vs. 31.3 percent). Questioned about how often they frequent bars, 16.7 percent said they are now going out more, 70.6 percent stated the ban made no difference, and only 12.5 percent reported going out less. Again, those frequenting bars more often since the law went into effect were more likely to be nonsmokers (21.4 percent vs. smokers 2.2 percent).
The poll was conducted March 9 to April 8, 2010, by the Survey Research Unit, part of the UNC biostatistics department. A random sample of telephone numbers, stratified by region and income levels, was used to interview 700 North Carolina adults. The margin of error for the main questions in the poll was approximately plus or minus 5 percent.
For more information about the Survey Research Unit and details on this poll, visit http://sru.sph.unc.edu/tarheelhealth.html.
For more information about the smoke-free policies in the state of North Carolina, see http://tobaccopreventionandcontrol.ncdhhs.gov/smokefreenc/