Nearly 400 in Lorain County, most against private clubs
ELYRIA — More than two months after the statewide smoking ban went into effect, the Ohio Health Department is still receiving smoking complaints about bars, restaurants and private clubs — 9,169 complaints, to be exact.
The anti-smoking law, which passed in the November 2006 election with 58 percent of the vote, eliminated smoking at businesses throughout the state, and residents have not shied away from reporting locales that aren’t following the rules.
According to records released from the Ohio Health Department, since the law went into effect on May 3, the department has received 387 complaints from Lorain County, the bulk of which have been about private clubs.
Locally, two of the three health departments in the county — which are in charge of enforcing the law — say they haven’t cited anyone as of yet as a result of the complaints.
The Veterans of Foreign War Post 1079 on South Abbe Road in Elyria, which is under investigation by the Elyria City Health Department for allegedly kicking a member out because he reported the club’s smoking practices, was the basis for the most complaints — 79 of them.
Other clubs that had several complaints made about them were the American Legion Post 118 on North Lake Street in Amherst, which was the subject of 42 complaints, the Elyria AMVETS Post 32 on Middle Avenue, the subject of 18 complaints, and the Spirit of 76 American Legion on Main Street in Wellington, the subject of 17 complaints.
For several months after the election, officials at private clubs thought they would be exempt from the law, but a last-second decision in May by a common pleas judge in Franklin County removed the exemption that would have given them a pass.
Michael Reed, a trustee with the Fraternal Order of Eagles on Lowell Street in Elyria, which has been the subject of 12 complaints, said the club received two letters from that state alerting them to the complaints, but he still believes the judge overstepped his boundaries.
“There is no smoking in here now, and it’s knocked down our business because longtime smokers don’t want to come in,” Reed said. “We’re definitely hoping for some sort of change, because private clubs, where people signed up knowing it was a smoking establishment, shouldn’t be included.”
The three health departments serving Lorain County say they are still researching how to handle citations.
“We haven’t sent out any citations yet. So far we have been sending out letters to the businesses and investigating the complaints, but we haven’t had to send out a fine yet,” Terry Tomaszewski, Lorain City Health Department’s health commissioner, said. “Everyone we have worked with has been very compliant with the law and worked with us so far, and we are still researching how the actual citation process will work.”
According to Sara Morman, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Health Department, the complaints are funneled to the local health departments that have jurisdiction over that area. The health department is then responsible for sending out the warning letters and investigating the claims.
If a citation is warranted, the local department can handle it, or it can be funneled back to the state office to be addressed.
According to the law, businesses will receive a warning letter for the first violation, with escalating fines being levied for subsequent violations. The base fine is $100; it will jump to $2,500 for five or more violations.
And the law doesn’t just target businesses. An individual caught smoking in a prohibited area also will receive a written warning for the first violation, followed by a $100 fine for any additional violations.
A spokesperson for the Lorain County Health Department confirmed that the office had not sent out any citations as of yet.
Meanwhile, officials at the Elyria Health Department said environmental health director David Oakes was the only person who would know if any citations had been sent out of that office, and he’s on vacation until next week and could not be reached.
Contact Joe Medici at 329-7152 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where there’s smoke?
Several county locations have been the subject of repeat complaints: VFW Post 1079 500 S. Abbe Road, Elyria 79 complaints
American Legion Post 118 921 N. Lake St., Amherst 42 complaints
Elyria AMVETS Post 32 11087 Middle Ave., Elyria 18 complaints
Spirit of 76 American Legion 518 S. Main St., Wellington 17 complaints
Fraternal Order of Eagles 1255 Lowell St., Elyria 12 complaints
Ray’s Memory Lane 3680 Pearl Ave., Lorain 10 complaints
Amherst Eagles Club 1442 1161 Milan Ave., Amherst 8 complaints
Ford Motor Co. 650 Miller Road, Avon Lake 7 complaints
AMVETS Post 47 3009 Broadway, Lorain 5 complaints
Source: Ohio Health Department
To view the entire list of complaints click here (warning: file size is 2 megabytes and may take a few minutes to load.)