Background: Despite recent legislative and voluntary policy changes, a significant number of workplaces, recreational venues, and public facilities do not offer the public full protection from secondhand smoke exposure. The current study assessed smoking policies, attitudes toward smoke-free policies, and support for policy change among business owners and managers of businesses open to the public in North Carolina.
Methods: Business owners and managers were interviewed over the phone. Businesses included all airports, arcades, malls, bowling alleys, and arenas (seating more than 500) in the state as well as a random sample of grocery and convenience stores.
Results: A 100% smoke-free policy was reported in 53% of businesses, ranging from 12% in bowling alleys to 97% in arenas. A large majority of business owners and managers understand the health risks of secondhand smoke exposure (82%-89%) and support restrictions on smoking in their businesses (84%-91%). Barriers to voluntary policy change included the lack of legal requirement (39%) and fear of the loss of business (53%).
Limitations: This study used self-report data from business owners and managers; the accuracy of the business smoking policy, customer and employee exposure time, and number of complaints may vary across respondents. It is also possible some participants were influenced by factors of social desirability of responses.
Conclusions: Continued progress in establishing 100% smoke-free indoor environments may depend on successful advocacy in instituting legislation mandating the elimination of secondhand smoke in all public places. Advocacy efforts should include education around addressing economic concerns of businesses.