MAHONING CO. Smoking ruling has little effect

The health commissioner does not believe the ruling will have much of an impact locally.
AUSTINTOWN -- The Ohio Supreme Court ruling that local health boards do not have the authority to ban smoking in all public places, such as restaurants, appears to invalidate a Mahoning County Health Board regulation passed in 1994.
Matthew Stefanak, county health board commissioner, said he would "leave it up to the lawyers whether or not the county needs to suspend enforcement or rescind" its regulation requiring, among other things, that at least 50 percent of the seating area in restaurants be designated nonsmoking.
At the health board meeting Thursday, Stefanak said he does not believe the ruling will have much of an impact locally because area restaurants have voluntarily set aside nonsmoking areas, and some have banned all smoking.
Also, Stefanak said the top court's ruling does not extend to businesses that deal with children, such as day-care centers.
Conservative approach
In its 6-1 ruling Wednesday, the Supreme Court called anti-smoking activists "well intentioned" but said state law does not allow them to overrule the Legislature.
"We refuse to extend by mere implication the authority of local boards of health beyond clearly stated and well-defined limits," the court's majority opinion said.
What does concern Stefanak is that the court's decision may reflect a conservative approach to health department's police power to regulate emerging public health threats.
Stefanak called that disappointing because the Ohio General Assembly has not been inclined to take action against environmental tobacco smoke or on other clean air issues.

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