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Published: Monday, 3/19/2007

Lenawee County limits smoking

BY BENJAMINALEXANDER-BLOCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

ADRIAN A smoking ban in Lenawee County s public buildings and workplaces, except for bars, restaurants, and specialty tobacco shops, will go into effect June 12.

The regulation, which requires businesses with two or more employees to implement a smoke-free environment, was approved last week by county commissioners.

The ban won t affect bars, restaurants, and certain tobacco shops, which are regulated by the state of Michigan and exempted from locally enacted smoking rules.

The commissioners action to authorize the county Board of Health to regulate smoking was a response to an advisory question that county voters approved by a two-to-one margin in November.

It wasn t an easy decision, said Jim Van Doren, chairman of the nine-member board and one of seven commissioners who voted with the majority. We felt that in light of the vote, the people of Lenawee County were looking for some sort of protection. With secondhand smoke being a big issue, especially on children, this was the feeling of the board of commissioners.

In addition to businesses employing more than two people, the ban applies to retail stores, libraries, museums, sports arenas, convention halls, and public and private meeting facilities.

It also prohibits smoking near entrances of businesses and workplaces and within business vehicles occupied by two or more people.

The county health department will administer and enforceiany smoking ban regulations.

Under the ban, a person found smoking in a business would face a warning and $100 fine. First-time violatorswill receive a warning, and then fines of $100, $250, and $500 for subsequent violations within a one-year period.

I hope that our county health department will not become bullies and use some discretion in enforcing this, said Ralph Tillotson, a commissioner who voted for the ban. Personally, if I was voting for only myself, I would have voted no. But the majority of the people in my district stated they wanted it, and I represent the people of the district.

Mr. Van Doren said he believed health department officials will work to educate the public on complying with the regulations and not enforce the ban through financial punishment.

Commissioner Jason MacKay, one of the two dissenters, said he wasn t opposed to a smoking ban, but felt the health department regulations went beyond the ballot question approved by voters.

The intent was good. But the health department took it one step further and added private places and social functions. The voters of Lenawee County did not vote on these, said Mr. MacKay.

A statewide ban on smoking in Ohio was approved in November by voters. The law prohibits smoking in bars, restaurants, bowling alleys, and nearly all other enclosed public places that have employees or invite the public indoors. The law went into effect in December, but is not being enforced while the Ohio Department of Health writes the ban s operating rules.

While the ban won the support of Lenawee County voters in the November election, a sample of residents yesterday said they see it as the first step toward government intrusion.

I guess I understand why the workplace ban is necessary, because you don t have a choice where you work, said Karin Mukenstrum, owner of Muk s Sports Pub in downtown Tecumseh. But I voted against the ban [in the November ballot] because where does it end? People do have a choice what bars and restaurants they go into, but I m worried that bars and the restaurants will be the next ones targeted.

Tecumseh resident Carolyn Evans disagreed.

When I used to work in the factory, it wasn t clean and was dangerous and just unhealthy having people smoking in there, she said. And in public places, what if you have pregnant women or kids around? There shouldn t be smoking there.

Mrs. Evans also said she would like to see more regulations passed at the state level to require better ventilation in bars and restaurants that allow smoking.

According to Michigan Department of Community Health Vital Statistics, more than $27 million was spent on smoking-related health-care costs in the county in 2002, and there were 175 smoking-related deaths, making it the leading cause of preventable death in the county.

Contact Benjamin Alexander-Blochat: babloch@theblade.comor 419-724-6168.



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