State: Smoking ban violations down as public approval rises

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — State officials are calling Ohio’s smoke-free workplace program a success a decade after voters approved a ballot measure barring smoking at some indoor establishments.

In 2006, the state banned smoking at indoor establishments that have at least one employee and invite the public inside. Enforcement began the following year. The state issued 2,220 violations in 2007, and that number has dropped to 278 violations so far in 2016 — 208 of which were first-time warnings, The Blade in Toledo reported.

The Ohio Department of Health issues a warning for the first violation and $100 fine for a second violation. Subsequent fines increase to $500, $1,000 and ultimately $2,500. In 2011, less than a third of the $2.3 million in fines that were assessed were collected.

Lisa Zumstein, sanitarian program specialist for the state’s Smoke-free Workplace Program, said 5 percent of the businesses that were fined accounted for 95 percent of the fines. But she said public approval has increased since then.

“We see people are very happy that they can go to work, go to a restaurant, go places, and they are not exposed to secondhand smoke,” Zumstein said.

She said they also don’t see as many repeat offenders as they used to.

“We still have a few holdouts, a few that reach the fine 4 level, but not as many,” Zumstein said.

Zumstein said much of the opposition calmed after the state Supreme Court in 2012 ruled the ban was “a valid exercise of the state’s police power.”

State health department spokesman Melanie Amato said there have also been some internal talks about whether to add e-cigarettes to the ban. No formal plans have been implemented.

A handful of Ohio cities have already implemented municipal bans for e-cigarettes. Zumstein said business owners can already ban e-cigarettes for their establishments.

A 1964 U.S. Surgeon General’s report linked tobacco use and smoking to ill health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 2.5 million nonsmoking adults have died from secondhand smoke.