Monday, May 9, 2011

No One is Paying Smoking Ban Fines

Posted by on Mon, May 9, 2011 at 3:25 PM

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It's been four years since the Ohio smoking ban went into effect. At the time, the law seemed like a big fire extinguisher sprayed at the tip of collective Flavor Country with rules, fines, and enforcement mechanisms to ensure that establishments complied.

In reality, flagrant flouting of the rules and Ohio's inability to collect the levied fines make the ban more like a Montessori-school behavioral suggestion and not a law.

The Dayton Daily News reports that after four years of sending fines to violators, more the two-thirds have yet to be paid. With all $1.5 million of funds to enforce the ban having been cut from the state's budget, Ohio now has little to no cash to go after the unpaid fines, money for which they were counting on to pay for enforcement. Follow that? In short: it's a vicious circle that leaves the smoking ban completely toothless.

From May 2007 through the end of April this year, state and local health departments had levied 2,353 fines worth more than $2.2 million to establishments that were found to have violated the ban. But the Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio Attorney General’s office have managed to collect only a third of that, and the collections are declining rapidly, a Dayton Daily News analysis of state data found.

The percentage of fines collected has dropped every year, from 81 percent in 2007 to just over 26 percent last year.

As a result, some bar owners have decided that they don’t need to follow the law.

Local health officials admit to being frustrated with the state’s enforcement efforts because 90 percent of the fines collected is supposed to be funneled toward investigations. As of April 30, $1.5 million in fines weren’t paid.

But they're totally going to collect that money. Just as soon as they get some money. Which happens as soon as they collect that money.

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