Better late than never.
On Monday a panel of lawmakers approved the rules for enforcement of Ohio's smoking ban. The rules go into effect the first week of May almost five months after the ban officially took effect Dec. 7. Because no penalties or method of enforcement existed, many locations have ignored the ban thus far. That should end now.
The ban prohibits smoking in most public places, including bars and restaurants. However, thanks to a clarification in the rules by the Ohio Department of Health, certain private clubs, such as VFWs, are now exempt.
Some traditional bars and restaurants are upset by that rule, claiming it gives private clubs a competitive advantage. A club is exempt if it is a private, nonprofit organization and it is only exempt if its employees are all club members and no nonmembers or children under 18 are present.
If a club meets those requirements there is no reason to include it in the ban. As soon as the club is opened to the public for events such as a fish fry, the ban is back in effect. Private clubs' autonomy is protected at the same time as the public's health a win-win. Bar and restaurant owners are simply griping over sour grapes, as most bar and restaurant patrons do not even belong to a private club.
The health department also struck the right chord when establishing the fines for offenders. Fines for locations that ignore or fail to enforce the ban start small and build up to $2,500 for multiple offenders. Smokers who flout the law will also be hit in the pocket books after one warning, the fine is $100 for a violation, and that's a lot of Camels. Despite receiving 17,000 complaints of alleged violations, the health department is doing the wise thing in giving everyone a clean slate now that everyone is on the same page.
But now that the smoke has cleared, figuratively, it is time for the smoke to clear literally.