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Penalties stoked in smoking ban

Restaurants that violate a proposed no-smoking regulation in Lucas County could risk losing their licenses to serve food.

“We're looking at a graduated penalty all the way up to revocation of license,” Dr. David Grossman, Toledo-Lucas county health commissioner, said.

Dr. Grossman wants the Toledo-Lucas County board of health to pass a regulation that would ban smoking in all public places in Lucas County, including bars and restaurants.

The proposal, which would be the toughest in the state if passed, has been criticized by bar and restaurant owners who say the regulation would hurt business. Dr. Grossman was to present the no-smoking proposal to the health board today, but he said yesterday he'll put off the presentation until December.

Labib Hajjar, president of the Northwest Ohio Restaurant Association, said he thinks the proposal goes too far because it doesn't allow for exceptions, including offering no-smoking areas.

Mr. Hajjar, who owns the Beirut restaurant in Toledo at 4082 Monroe St., said the restaurant association hasn't taken a formal position but could at its next meeting in January.

Research by the county prosecutor's office into the draft regulation has posed some additional questions, and Dr. Grossman said he wants to make sure the regulation he proposes is strong before he presents it.

He said adding the option of revoking a restaurant's license was a recent idea he threw into the mix as another way to strengthen the regulation.

In addition, Dr. Grossman said he wants to avoid permitting a loophole that would make it easy for businesses to declare themselves private clubs and circumvent the regulation.

He wants the regulation to state that anyplace that declares itself a private club must meet strict requirements, including having a board of directors.

A majority of the 11-member board of health has indicated they support the proposal. If they initially sign off on the regulation, it would have to be “read” to the board two more times. That means the last reading would be in February.

The regulation, if it passes all readings, would take effect sometime after that.

The chances of the proposal taking effect were strengthened this month when Governor Taft said he would veto a House bill that would prevent appointed boards like Dr. Grossman's from enforcing no-smoking regulations. The bill would leave that authority with elected boards.

Governor Taft's threatened veto effectively has killed the bill unless a compromise is reached.

The governor's press secretary, Kevin Kellems, said yesterday that no compromise proposals have been brought to Governor Taft's attention.

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