June 30, 2004
Health Department Investigates 70 Complaints on Indoor Smoking Law
The County Health Department's Division of Environmental Health received 70 complaints so far this year involving violations to the state Clean Indoor Air Act. The law, which took effect July 24, 2003, bans smoking in bars, restaurants and all work places.
"As with all our programs, we are looking for voluntary compliance to the law," said Commissioner of Health Services Kathleen Smith. "All places of employment, including bars and restaurants, are responsible for complying with the Clean Indoor Air Act unless they receive a waiver."
The first time smoking is observed in a bar, restaurant or other place of business, a warning is issued. After the first warning, a $1,000 fine is issued. The first fine can be reduced to $500 with an admission and stipulation offer. A $1,000 fine is issued for all subsequent violations. Between January and June, the department issued 29 warnings, issued 20 fines, and collected 10 fines totaling $5,000.
Businesses that paid fines for allowing patrons or employees to smoke indoors since Jan. 1 include Big Bay Marina, Boogs Tavern, Happy Valley Inn, Hannibal Hotel, Hastings Inn, Hazzy's, Lake Effect Inn, Pine Grove Inn, Redfield Cheese Factory, Trackside Pub, and Wander Inn.
Several other bars and restaurants were charged with violations that are pending disposition. They include Altmar Hotel, Big Bay Marina, second offense, Brokedown Palace, Muskies Tavern, Redfield Cheese Factory, second offense, Redfield Square Hotel, two offenses, TJ's Boathouse Tavern, and Vanessa's Place. The health department also evaluates requests for waivers to the Clean Indoor Air Act.
"Establishments applying for waivers must demonstrate proof of financial hardship and show that they have an acceptable plan to minimize involuntary exposure to secondhand smoke for employees and patrons," said Smith.
The Oswego County Board of Health is responsible for granting or denying waivers. The Board of Health has granted waivers to Buoy's Dockside Tavern, Off-Track Betting parlors in Central Square and Phoenix, Rte. 29 Entertainment/Thompson's, and Trackside Pub.
According to the policy adopted by the Board of Health, a business must show a 15 percent loss of sales tax revenue since the smoking ban took effect in order to claim financial hardship resulting from the law.
Business owners must also submit a written plan and a diagram showing where smoking areas would be located, and how the owners plan to alleviate the effects of secondhand smoke on customers and employees. Waivers are for a two-year period and are not transferable if the business changes hands.
To report a violation, or to receive an application for a waiver, contact the County Division of Environmental Health, 70 Bunner St., Oswego, phone 349-3557 or 1-800-596-3200, ext. 3557.
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