Published: Friday, April 27, 2007
Smoking ban rules in effect next week
In some instances, private clubs are exempt from the ban.
By MARC KOVAC
COLUMBUS As expected, health officials submitted the final draft of a statewide indoor smoking ban to the Ohio Legislative Service Commission, the last step in the process of implementing the rules.
Kristopher Weiss, a spokesman for Ohio Department of Health, said the rules were turned over Monday and they take effect Thursday, capping months of public comment and a final hearing before the state's Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review.
Last November, more than 58 percent of voters approved a ballot issue prohibiting smoking in public places and places of employment.
Bars, restaurants and most other gathering places were supposed to stop customers from smoking as of early December, but enforcement actions couldn't begin until the state health department completed rules enforcement provisions and penalties.
Provisions of the new smoking rules taking effect next week require:
No smoking in public places or places of employment or in adjacent areas.
Business owners and managers to take "reasonable steps, including but not limited to requesting individuals to cease smoking."
Posting of "no smoking" signs.
The removal of ashtrays and other receptacles used for discarding smoking materials. There's an exception for receptacles that are part of historic or architectural value, which can remain in place but not be used.
Penalties ranging from warning letters for first violations to fines ranging from $100 to $2,500 for businesses and a warning letter or $100 fines for individuals.
Some buildings are exempt from the ban, including certain private residences, designated smoking rooms in lodging facilities and nursing homes, retail tobacco stores, outdoor patios and some family-owned and operated businesses.
Health officials changed the rules to cover private clubs, such as VFW posts, if they meet a number of criteria, including being organized as a nonprofit organization, located in free-standing buildings and ensuring only members are on the premises.
The exemption would not require any filings or permission from public officials in advance. Instead, eligible clubs those meeting all of the criteria would essentially self-police smoking activities, Weiss said.
"If you're a restaurant, you're always covered by the ban. If you're a private club, you may be covered sometimes, and other times you may not," Weiss said.
Smoking ban proponents and opponents already have filed legal action against the rules.
The American Cancer Society, for example, was not happy the rules allowed eligible private clubs to allow smoking on their premises and filed a complaint with a court in Franklin County.
During the JCARR hearing on the issue, lawmakers also pointed out that legislation could be introduced changing the prohibitions since the ballot issue approved in November was a law and not a constitutional amendment.