October 22, 2009 - When N.C. restaurants and bars go smoke-free at the start of 2010, smokers might find another place they aren't welcome: part of Elizabeth Avenue and its sidewalks. Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC) campuses are going tobacco-free next year, and the school asked the city of Charlotte to ban smoking on Elizabeth Avenue from Kings Drive to Charlottetown Avenue, where it bisects its central campus. CPCC's ban in January includes not only buildings, but also campus sidewalks and outdoor common areas.
If the City Council approves the ban, Charlotte would be among the first cities in the country to ban smoking on a city sidewalk or street. The city currently can regulate smoking in government buildings. When North Carolina's new smoking law takes effect Jan. 2, local governments could prohibit smoking in parks. But it's unclear whether governments can prohibit smoking on other public property - such as sidewalks or streets.
CPCC leaders worry that if students can smoke only on the sidewalk, it will undermine the campus smoking ban, turning Elizabeth into an ashtray.
N.C.'s new law will ban smoking in restaurants and bars - a move that many other states made years ago. But if Charlotte moves forward with an Elizabeth Avenue ban, it would propel the city into the forefront of anti-smoking efforts around the country, said Cynthia Hallett, the executive director of the California-based Americans for Non-Smokers Rights.
New York City is considering banning smoking in parks, and the California municipality of Santa Cruz recently banned smoking on two streets.
Smoking isn't allowed today in CPCC's buildings. At CPCC's Information Technology building on the corner of Elizabeth Avenue and Charlottetown Avenue, the school has already banned smoking immediately outside the doors, under a portico.
But trash cans are covered with cigarette butts. People have to take only one step onto the city sidewalk to legally smoke.
UNC Charlotte prohibits smoking in almost all buildings. But the university doesn't have any city-owned streets through campus, so it wouldn't lobby the city for an Elizabeth Avenue-style ban, spokesperson Paul Nowell said.
Reference: No lighting up, even on sidewalk? CPCC goes smoke-free next year, wants city to extend ban to a section of Elizabeth Avenue by Steve Harrison
(firstname.lastname@example.org), Charlotte Observer, 10/22/2009.