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New smoking laws don't have much bite

Publication Date: 2010-01-31
  • Author:Laurence Hammack
  • Publication:Roanoke Times

Some restaurants and bars are not adhering to new restrictions against smoking, and the health department is not doing much to enforce the law.

Two months after Virginia prohibited smoking in most bars and restaurants, a blue haze still lingers inside Charbel's, a working-class watering hole that sits among car dealerships on Salem's East Main Street...

About 95 percent of the state's restaurants and bars inspected so far are following the requirements, according the Virginia Health Department. But little has been done, at least so far, to deal with places such as Charbel's.

The law states that local health departments are responsible for enforcement, but it gives them no legal authority to issue a summons. The most health officials can do is turn a case over to local police. And even if a charge is filed, the maximum punishment is just a $25 fine.