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Published: Thursday, 7/26/2001

Top court to review ban on smoking

BY DALE EMcH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Attorneys on both sides of Lucas County's strict indoor smoking ban have agreed on four questions that they want the Ohio Supreme Court to consider.

The questions were filed yesterday in U.S. District Court as requested by Judge David Katz, who delayed the ban from taking effect this month in anticipation that the case might be resolved more quickly by the state's high court.

The questions deal with the following issues:

  • Did the state legislature grant health boards the authority to prohibit smoking in all public places as defined in the regulation?

  • If so, does that violate the state constitution?

  • Does the regulation conflict with or is it pre-empted by Ohio law that governs smoking in places of public accommodation by calling for non-smoking areas in certain places?

  • If the regulation conflicts with an existing municipal ordinance or a future one, which regulation would be followed?

    Andy Ranazzi, an assistant county prosecutor who is representing the Toledo-Lucas County board of health, said Judge Katz has approved the questions before they can be submitted to the Supreme Court. He said he did not know how quickly that would happen.

    The state's high court could decline to hear the matter, and Judge Katz would then decide whether to keep the case in federal court or send it back to Lucas County Common Pleas Court, where it originally was filed.

    The health board's regulation, the toughest passed in the state, was scheduled to take effect July 8.

    The ban has been stalled in the courts by a group of 27 plaintiffs, mostly bar owners, who contend the board doesn't have authority to enforce the regulation.

    Louis Tosi, an attorney for the people who are trying to overturn the ban, said he's happy both sides could agree on what questions would be submitted to the Supreme Court.

    “We're pleased to be getting on with the ultimate merits of the case,” he said. “Now that the injunction has been issued, we're happy to do so without the threat of enforcement.”

    Mr. Ranazzi said the county asked Judge Katz to send the case to the Supreme Court to avoid litigating the issue for years in lower courts.

    “It's an economic use of resources to go to the Supreme Court,” Mr. Ranazzi said. “It's going to shortcut the process by the better part of two years.”



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