The smoking ban has businesses rethinking smoking areas.
By ANDREW GAUG
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
It’s been almost two months since the statewide smoking ban went into effect in Ohio, and some businesses are looking for a way to keep employees and patrons who smoke happy.
The Lordstown General Motors plant is changing its previously strict smoking policy out of concerns for employee safety.
Because the company doesn’t allow smoking on the premises, many employees went to the roads outside the plant to smoke during their breaks, said Michael Rhodes, an employee assistant at GM. But a growing concern for its employees’ safety along the roads has prompted GM to install smoking shelters where people can light up.
“They basically look like bus stops you’d see in Youngstown, except a little more enclosed,” he said.
Although the shelters have been delivered, Rhodes wasn’t sure when they’d be installed.
Quitting the habit
Chair manufacturer Gasser Chair is offering its employees help quitting the habit.
The company offers employees a smoking cessation program that would provide them with access to the Tobacco Quit Line and nicotine replacement patches free of charge.
Human resources manager Marolan Sunseri said the program costs the company a couple hundred dollars but the results outweigh the costs.
“The expense is minimal if we can get employees to quit,” she said.
While some manufacturers and restaurants are still weighing how to deal with smoking employees’ requests, restaurants such as Cedar’s Lounge and Cafe Cimmento in downtown Youngstown and Buffalo Wild Wings in Niles have been prepared for a while.
All have outdoor patios. But now they have become the only place where smokers can legally light up their cigarettes.
“People go out [to the patio] and smoke and make sure they keep their distance from the doors,” said George Mager, owner of Cafe Cimmento.
Caffé Capri in Boardman is reaching out to smokers. Owner Ron Quaranta Jr. is building an outdoor dining area that will allow smoking.
“People who smoke aren’t bad people,” he said.
The area will be lined with landscaping, including a trellis and grape vines, and have portable heaters. Quaranta said an awning may be added later. Lighting will help it resemble an Italian courtyard, he said.
He said he’s hoping the area will lure diners who are now staying home because of the smoking ban. The restaurant’s bar sales are down 18 percent since the law went into effect, he said.
Some businesses, such as Chili’s, avoid the issue altogether by not allowing their customers to smoke.
“We don’t have a designated smoking area,” said Chili’s manager Brian Moore. “We’ve always been a nonsmoking facility. Since the ban has been in effect, we’ve kicked around some ideas as far as creating smoking areas. But nothing has really come of it.”
Others, such as the LongHorn Steakhouse, have been nonsmoking restaurants and don’t plan on changing anything
“We don’t do anything special for our guests or the employees [who smoke],” Skip Lord, general manager of LongHorn, said.
As time goes by, people should expect to see more safe areas to smoke, said Rick Setty, director of environmental health for the Mahoning County Health District.
“I would expect this to increase over time. I support it if it helps businesses properly comply with the law,” he said.
But if it can’t, then Setty said businesses will be in trouble.
“If you can find a way to accommodate [drinking and smoking] — great. If not, well sorry, you’re out of luck.”