BREATHE Chapel Hill! Our Smoke-free Community

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Breathe Easy...Orange County's Public Places are Smoke-Free. The policy was effective January 1, 2013. Click here for more information about the Smoke-Free Public Places Rule & Smoking Cessation Options.

The Town of Chapel Hill supports smoke-free public places and promotes ways to make our community healthier.

What are the rules about smoking around town?

In addition to the Orange County's Smoke-Free Public Places Rule, there are a variety of restrictions established by the Town of Chapel Hill, State of NC, Chapel Hill-Carrboro Public Schools and UNC-Chapel Hill. For a complete list of these, check the Orange County Health Department’s Smoke-free Public Places website at


Where is smoking allowed?

Generally speaking, smoking is allowed on private property. For more detailed information, check the Orange County Health Department’s Smoke-free Public Places website at

How can I find help to quit smoking?

Why do we have these prohibitions?

Impact of secondhand smoke outdoors

  • Research indicates that, during active smoking, outdoor levels of secondhand smoke may be as high as indoor levels and may pose a health risk for people in close proximity (such as those sitting beside someone on a park bench).
  • The 2006 U.S. Surgeon General’s report states that “Breathing even a little secondhand smoke can be harmful.”
  • The Surgeon General has concluded that the only way to fully protect yourself and your loved ones from the dangers of secondhand smoke is through 100% smoke-free environments.

Cleaner environment

  • Cigarette butts are the most commonly littered item in America.
  • Outdoor smoke-free policies have been shown to decrease litter and therefore, reduce clean-up costs at outdoor areas.

It’s good for our youth

  • Creating smoke-free environments reduces opportunities for youth to learn the behavior of smoking.

Why are there no designated smoking areas on Town grounds?

Providing designated smoking areas does not align with the Town’s commitment to providing a culture of wellness and protecting the health of all employees. Breathe

What is the meaning of the BREATHE signs in downtown?

These signs offer a positive message to reinforce images of clean air and healthy breaths, along with tobacco cessation resource information. We want to encourage healthy lifestyles through positive public communications.  

What is the approach to enforcement?

Orange County's Smoke-Free Public Places Rule is about education and empowerment. The purpose of the rule is to protect people from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke and encourage smokers to quit by providing support and resources for them to do so. Support of the rule should be grassroots in nature, relying on peers and the community to educate smokers about compliance. By involving the community in educational efforts and encouraging them to engage in dialogue about healthy choices, there should be little or no need for actual enforcement. Orange County Health Department has worked together with the Chapel Hill Police Department to develop this Enforcement Philosophy.

What are some tips to encourage compliance with a smoke-free community?

Compliance is everyone’s business. If you see someone violating smoking laws, approach the person in a kind, compassionate way. You might say, “Hi there. Our community’s public places are smoke-free. If you want to smoke, please find a private area to do so. If you want to quit, there's a great list of resources.”

Our approach is similar to enforcement in cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, where the law is primarily enforced by citizens. We expect that most people want to comply. However, people who violate the law may receive a $25 ticket. If someone refuses to stop smoking in an area where smoking is prohibited, individuals may inform a business owner, public employee or police officer, if one is available. Otherwise, complaints can be made by calling the Orange County Hotline at 919-245-2480.

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