GALLIPOLIS - Enforcement of Ohio's indoor smoking ban, which voters approved in November, begins today.
The May 3 enforcement date comes more than one month before the mandated enforcement date of June 7.
“We are pleased to clear the air in Ohio's public places, and protect Ohioans from the dangers of secondhand smoke,” said Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Acting Director Anne R. Harnish. “With these new rules in effect, Ohioans will breathe easier when in the state's public places and work places.”
Businesses and places of employment were required to prohibit smoking, remove ashtrays and post no-smoking signs with the toll-free enforcement number (866)559-6446 (OHIO), beginning Dec. 7, 2006.
However, the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) was unable to levy fines until enforcement rules were in place.
ODH wrote the enforcement rules in collaboration with an advisory committee made up of 34 representatives from 27 statewide organizations and in recognition of some 55,000 public comments received either in person at public hearings, in writing or via telephone and e-mail.
Because of an April 30 temporary restraining order, Ohio's private clubs will be subject to the smoking ban, at least until May 14, when a hearing is scheduled in Columbus.
Since the ban took effect, ODH has received more than 17,000 reports of alleged violations; these complaints resulted in informational letters reminding these entities of their threefold obligation under the law.
Beginning Thursday, alleged violations will be forwarded to local health departments, the ODH's designated enforcement agencies, which will then investigate complaints in their respective jurisdictions.
No fines will be issued Thursday, as local health departments must conduct an on-site investigation before issuing any penalties.
Businesses cited under the law are subject to a warning letter for the first violation and fines of $100 (second violation), $500 (third), $1,500 (fourth) and $2,500 (fifth and subsequent violations).
Individuals are subject to a warning letter for a first violation and $100 fine for second and subsequent violations.
Businesses and individuals cited under the law have the right to appeal.