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Two-thirds of Ohio smoking ban fines unpaid

Published: Mon, May 9, 2011 @ 12:03 a.m.

Associated Press


The Ohio Department of Health and the attorney general’s office have collected only one-third of the $2.2 million in fines levied for facilities that have violated the state’s smoking ban since enforcement began four years ago, according to state data.

Smoking is prohibited in most indoor, public places under the ban, which went into effect in 2007. State and local health officials have issued more than 2,300 fines totaling more than $2.2 million since May 2007, but about $1.5 million had not been paid as of April 30, according to a report by the Dayton Daily News, which analyzed the data.

The newspaper found the percentage of fines collected drops each year. It was 81 percent in 2007 but just 26 percent last year.

The agencies involved in collecting the fines say they do what they can to get the money.

Most places comply with the ban, but some officials argue the holdouts would change their ways if the state collected the fines more aggressively. The concerns come as Gov. John Kasich was calling for significant cuts in anti-tobacco money in his two-year budget proposal, the newspaper said.

“I think for an enforcement program to be effective, there has to be a hammer,” Montgomery County Health Commissioner Jim Gross said. “And it’s pretty clear right now this program does not have an effective penalty system to change that behavior.”

The number of complaints statewide has decreased each year, from nearly 22,000 in Ohio in 2007 to about 6,800 last year.

The Ohio Department of Health believes complaints are down because most businesses comply with the law, but it can’t say for certain, spokeswoman Jennifer House said. The department sends out invoices for fines, and those that go unpaid after 45 days are referred to the attorney general, she said.

Dan Tierney, a spokesman for Attorney General Mike DeWine, said the office tries to collect and sometimes has to hire a special counsel to collect a fine on its behalf. The Attorney General’s Office has referred 339 smoking cases to the special counsel, Tierney said. Fifty were paid or settled in court.

The enforcement system is frustrating local health officials because 90 percent of the collected fines are intended to go toward investigations.

In Montgomery County, Gross said the county public health department levied $220,000 worth of fines but has received only $15,800 in collections from the state and has used other money to cover the $30,000 it spends annually to investigate complaints.

The county’s biggest offender is the West Carrollton bar Bojangles, where 134 smoking complaints and $1,100 in fines aren’t deterring patrons from lighting up.

Bojangles doesn’t offer food or serve anyone under 21, so owner Jo Risk sees the smoking ban as a threat to the survival of the family-owned business.

“This is putting me out of business, and I don’t think West Carrollton or anyone else can afford to lose any more tax dollars,” she said.


1MattMarzula(109 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

The voting public may have outlawed smoking in certain places, but the true vote when it comes to patronage is if you go in, sit down, and buy something. The state shouldn't have to get involved or feel the need to rape these establishments of money to create revenue. Most of these places have lost income at a large percentage due to the smoking ban. Sure the argument can be made for the public health and welfare, and it is a good one. But, anyone with eyes can see that smokers and nonsmokers alike simply don't want that ridiculous minority of intolerant, fake coughing, hand waving, sour faced, and self righteous @$$holes sucking the joy out of a place. If the law were repealed, certain places would continue to ban smoking on their own accord, and certain places would allow it in much the same way things were done prior to the state creating a failed law that has cost tax payers more than it has taken or even attempted to take in. This article could have been summarized as, "The state government is butt-hurt because people don't listen to it or want to pay it money when it makes laughable judgements and decisions it can't back up."

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2Irishtiger(51 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Sad to think we voted this in because it was very hazardous to our health and it's being ignored. "Smokers have rights, too!" I don't see alot of courteous smoking. They stand right at the door and scum up the air. And it's just another obvious sign when kasich is always on the wrong side. Get used to it. Get the money from these people or allow them to think about it behind bars. Voters deserve representation!

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3VINDYAK(1824 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

It goes to show you how in-effective new laws can be. We have saddled our administrators and prosecuting officials with many laws that require expensive action to enforce. As we continue passing more laws, we add to the size, the burdeon and the expense of maintaining a massive government that consumes huge sums of our tax dollar, which taxpayers are now rebelling against.

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4fcb(401 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

If Mr. Marzula could see some one die of lung cancer he would sing a different tune.As for the fines,you have a LAW,enforce it, and if the fine are not being paid close the place down and see how fast it is paid.

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5Cowboyfan(105 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

"The department sends out invoices for fines, and those that go unpaid after 45 days are referred to the attorney general"

Are you kidding me!!!! They came after me for a 2 year old $20 parking ticket on a college campus (I didn't even know I got it) with all the power and vengence of the State and they can't collect 1.5 MILLION.

We voted NO SMOKING for our health. You want to kill yourself fine...don't take me with you.

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6walter_sobchak(2332 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

WHile smoking may not directly kill you, it does nothing to improve your life. I hate it and think you have to be a fool to do it. That being said, the law should be changed so that establishments that have only a small percentage of gross revenue from food should be able to permit smoking in the bar areas. Of course, the law should also be changed to allow 18 year old ADULTS to drink alcohol instead of hanging it out there like a carrot on a string, encouraging binge drinking on weekends and at parties.

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7Tjay(8 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

@MattMarzula: Count me as one of the "intolerant, fake coughing, hand waving, sour faced, and self righteous @$$holes sucking the joy out of a place," and proud to be one (though there's nothing at all "fake" about me, and I'd love to see you try to say this to my face).

You're living in a dream world if you think we're "the minority." Have you checked the percentages of people who smoke vs. those who don't lately?

Like so many other selfish smokers who think the world ought to revolve strictly around them, you fail to see that your "joy" is not MY "joy." But of course, yours is your only concern.

As a musician and a singer, I have a little bit to say about this, as I've performed in bars for over 35 years now. No way do I want to go back to the way it was before, when at times I could barely breathe, let along sing, due to all the smoke.

I also remember talking to people when the ban was about to kick in who said they wouldn't be seeing me again because they wouldn't come back if they couldn't smoke. What a joke! They were all back within a month or two.

Like most reasonable people, they figured out that all they had to do was the same thing they were ALREADY doing when they visited the homes of friends who don't smoke...they simply stepped outside when they felt the need to feed their habit.

The true whiners are the ones who feel this is such a horrible burden to have to bear -- and that, by golly, their inherent right to befoul the public air is somehow greater than mine to breathe freely.

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8lilgandee(103 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Smokers and nonsmokers alike voted for the smoking ban so its here ad people gotta go outside. Usa is not a dictatorship when overwhelming majority vote in something then it happens. Small businesses are affected but people go there anyway and smoke outside.. If I want to patronize and people smoke in the doorway I keep going. I smoked for 26 years but quit b4 price got stupid (2 1/2 years) and voted against the ban. Seat belts, happy meals and the like take choices away from us is what I am against. Spending cuts and tightening the govt belt is needed but if they can get people to court they can get the money. Dui, theft and even child support have their day in court so they can collect. This non payment was b4 Kasich got in office so let's not blame him. I will also say the smoking and 2nd hand smoking kills averagely slow compared to a drunk leaving the bar and hitting someone. Bars are still here!

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