GREENSBORO—North Carolina restaurants and bars have been smoke-free now for three years.
Public health representatives say the Smoke-Free Restaurants and Bars Law has improved in-door air quality and slashed exposure to second-hand smoke. For diners, they have been breathing a little easier knowing they can enjoy their favorite meals in a smoke-free environment.
Burlington resident Karen Lowe-Bumper said the law has been a breath of fresh air.
"I have migraines and smoking is one of the triggers and so it was really hard for me to be able to go to restaurants and eat my meal because I'd get instant migraines from the smoke,” said Lowe-Bumper.
Leaders say the indoor air quality improved by 89 percent when the law first went into effect in 2010. Lowe-Bumper said the statistic makes her feel better about taking her family out to eat.
"My son has allergies to just about everything outside and smoke is included. So knowing that he can go out without us and be able to eat with his friends, that makes a difference to me," said Lowe-Bumper.
Mary Gillett, a Tobacco Prevention Program Coordinator at the Guilford County Department of Public Health, said the number of workers exposed to secondhand smoke was nearly cut in half in 2010.
"We know that reduced second-hand smoke is going to improve long-term health risks like cancer but also it's going to help short-term health risks like heart attacks and cardiovascular events," said Gillett.
Greensboro resident Livi Shepherd Gray said it has improved the dining out experience.
"I think it's just a healthier way to be. You've got kids in the restaurant, you don't want smoke in their face. You have elderly people, you don't want their lungs getting irritated,” said Gray.
A 2012 poll by Public Opinion Strategies found that 83 percent of North Carolina voters supported the state's smoke-free law.