Published: Friday, December 22, 2006
Businesses seem to be complying with law
Being close to the Pennsylvania line could be a double whammy for some.
By WILLIAM K. ALCORN
Checks at several businesses along Belmont Avenue found substantial compliance with the intent, if not the letter, of Ohio's new SmokeFree Workplace Act.
The law went into effect Dec. 7 and prohibits indoor smoking in public places. Enforcement rules are being formulated.
A large percentage of places appear to not have the required no-smoking signs at their entrances that contain the toll-free telephone number (866) 559-6446 for reporting complaints to the Ohio Department of Health. More information about the law can be found at the toll-free information line at (866) 634-7654.
Rumors abound that there are bars and restaurants that continue to allow patrons to smoke.
Those checked in person, however, appear to be complying with the law.
For example, Brothers Pizza in Vienna has no-smoking signs prominently displayed at entrances, and an employee said the law is being enforced in the restaurant and a bar in the same building. There were no ashtrays on the tables.
The Holiday Inn MetroPlex, which houses the Funny Farm Comedy Club and Choices Night Club, also has signs posted at its entrances. Debbie Szurminski, administrative assistant, said patrons are required to smoke on an outside patio. She said the smoking ban has probably hurt the bar business a little bit.
At the Comedy Club
An employee of the Comedy Club pointed out a problem that is particular to area businesses because they are within a few miles of Pennsylvania, a state that does not have a workplace smoking ban.
The employee said Pennsylvania patrons were upset when they found out they could not smoke during the shows, and some said they would not come back. The double whammy is that Ohio customers don't have very far to go across the state line to find bars and restaurants where they can smoke.
In the meantime, the ODH is working to formulate rules that will lead to enforcement.
Proposed rules now on the table include:
State health officials would investigate complaints, but local public health departments would enforce the law.
The ban would not be in effect in private residences, which might provide intermittent workplaces for some individuals, such as baby sitters, plumbers, electricians, home health-care workers and housekeepers.
A consent decree between ODH and the plaintiffs of two lawsuits, in which the ODH promises not to fine violators until the rules are finished, does not change the fact that the smoking ban law has gone into effect, said Tracy Sabetta, co-chairwoman of the SmokeFreeOhio campaign, which spearheaded passage of the new law.
"While a handful of businesses may wait for the fines to start to comply, the majority of business owners will ... put up no-smoking signs, remove ashtrays, and ask smokers to step outside for a few minutes," Sabetta said.
The ODH has posted draft enforcement rules on its Web site www.odh.ohio.gov for public comment. The rules, which incorporate comments received at the advisory committee meeting Tuesday, will remain posted until Jan. 11, 2007. Comments should be sent by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or by mail to Chief, Bureau of Environmental Health, Ohio Department of Health, 246 N. High St., Columbus, OH 43215.