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Businesses bounce back after smoking ban

It’s been one year since the state of Ohio banned smoking in all public places.

It November 2006, voters passed Issue 5, which required businesses — from restaurants to clubs to bowling alleys and even private organizations like the American Legion or the Elks — to throw out their ashtrays and replace them with “No Smoking” signs.

Since then, if smokers wanted to light up, they had to do it outside.

So how has it

affected businesses?

Bar owners in Ironton saw an immediate drop in business after the smoking ban went into effect last year although they have seen it bounce back.

Rob Brumfield, owner of the End Zone in downtown Ironton, said his business is primarily a restaurant but it was still hurt significantly.

“There was a direct, immediate impact,” he said. “But it’s coming back around. It’s not a big deal now because we have the patio. That’s not why we built it, but on a nice day it fills up.”

He said business has gotten better.

“Everything bounces back,” Brumfield said. “We did see new customers who didn’t like smoking who said they had never been in here before.”

He added he was used to the smoking ban because Columbus instituted a smoking ban in 2004.

“It wasn’t a shock to my system,” he said.

Josh Seczekorn, a bartender at the End Zone, said he doesn’t mind the smoking ban.

“I’m a smoker, but when I go home at the end of the night, my clothes don’t absolutely reek of smoke and my eyes aren’t all red,” he said. “So I guess it is a good thing and a bad thing. I can see the advantages to not smoking in public.”

Mark Rutledge, the owner of Frog Town, said he saw a dramatic drop in the number of customers his place got after the smoking ban.

“Through the winter months, it killed us,” he said. “But now that it is coming on summer and we have a place outside to smoke, it is getting better.”

He estimates he lost 50 to 60 percent of his customers in the winter.

“Now, with warm weather it picked up again.”

Enforcement

When it comes to making a complaint about smoking who gets called depends on where it is.

The Lawrence County Health Department fields complaints from the whole county except Ironton. Smoking complaints in Ironton public places go to the Ohio Department of Health.

Kristopher Weiss, a spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Health, said that across the state, health departments have performed 17,566 investigations with 683 of those having insufficient information to investigate.

There were 9,633 cases dismissed, 2,083 warning letters were sent, 482 $100 fines issued, 155 $500 fines issued and 30 $1,000 fines issued for fourth violations and seven $25,000 fines for fifth violations. There are 2,332 active investigations.

He said in the past year, there have been 30,000 complaints made with the various health departments.

“It sounds like a high number and out of context it is, but we estimate there are 280,000 public places and places of employment in Ohio covered by the Smokefree Workplace Act,” Weiss said. “So I think the vast majority of businesses are complying with the ban.”

Weiss said that there have been six warnings passed out in Lawrence County along with a couple of $100 fines. Fines can be for people actually smoking or just having an ashtray out where the public could use it.

In Ironton, there have been four warning letters sent out for a first offense to the Eagles 895, the VFW 8850, the Moose 701 and Elks 177. The Moose and the VFW were also fined $100 for a second violation.

In Lawrence County, Proctorville Volunteer Fire Department Bingo got a warning letter, a $100 fine and a $500 fine for a third violation. Randolph Stables Inc. got a warning letter.

Weiss added there have been other investigations into smoking complaints in Lawrence County, but those were the only cases that resulted in letters or fines.

Weiss said that investigations have tampered off in the past few months. He said the bulk of complaints were from when the ban took place in May and a couple of months after.

“From a public health perspective, it was the voters of the state of Ohio that put this law into effect and as a taxpayer funded entity. I would argue that they are our highest authority, “Weiss said. “That is what they wanted us to do and that is what we have been doing.”