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News Summary

Five years later, smoking ban complaints decrease significantly

Publication Date: 2011-12-07
  • Author:Michael C. Butz
  • Publication:The News Herald

As the Smoke-Free Workplace Act headed to Ohio ballots in November 2006, public debate over the issue was recurrent and sometimes rambunctious.

Five years later, much of that debate has been quieted, with a number of stakeholders declaring the act -- which banned smoking in about 280,000 public places and places of employment in Ohio -- a success.

"This is something the people of Ohio voted for and said they wanted, and I think it's working," Lake County Health Commissioner Frank Kellogg said.

Enforcement of the ban started May 3, 2007. In the first year, from May 2007 through April 2008, Lake County received 574 complaints, Kellogg said. From May 2008 through April 2009, it received 230; from May 2009 through April 2010, it received 206; and from May 2010 through April 2011, it received 149 — which amounts to a 74 percent reduction...

Why the decrease?

Kellogg said the reduction in complaints can be explained by two factors, the first of which involves public expectations.

"The public is finding it generally more enjoyable where there's no smoke," he said, noting that five years into the ban, many -- smokers and nonsmokers alike -- have gotten used to the ban being in place.

The second factor revolves around enforcement of the ban's policies, warnings and fines.

"No one needs us walking through their door at 9 o'clock at night," he said, referring to the health district's investigation of a complaint.

To further illustrate the effect the ban has had, Kellogg points to a collection of reports recently released by the ODH.

Two separate studies compared heart attack data for emergency room and urgent care visit complaints and hospital discharge data, respectively.

When comparing emergency room visit data before and after the law, Ohio's heart attack complaint rates declined by about 26 percent, according to the ODH.

An analysis of the economic impact also was conducted using taxable sales from bars and restaurants for the state.

Sales data from 2003 through 2010 were evaluated for bars and restaurants separately to investigate where the smoking ban influenced either business type differently.

After analyzing the data, researcher Elizabeth Klein, with the Ohio State University College of Public Health, concluded that on the whole, the smoking ban had not had an economic effect on restaurants and bars in the state.

The ODH also reported that a majority of Ohioans still support the Smoke-Free Workplace Act.

A recent survey showed that 73 percent of adult Ohioans either strongly approve or approve of the ban, while 11 percent disapprove and 8 percent strongly disapprove. The agency also reported that approximately three out of four surveyed stated they visit restaurants and bars with about the same frequency as they did before the ban went into effect.