Jan. 26, 2005
Oswego County Board of Health Eliminates Warnings to Violators of Indoor Smoking Law
Beginning Feb. 4, businesses and organizations that violate the state's Clean Indoor Air Act in Oswego County will no longer receive a warning the first time that smoking is observed by the county Health Department staff. The Oswego County Board of Health voted at its January meeting to eliminate the warning notice.
The Clean Indoor Air Act, which took effect in New York State July 24, 2003, bans smoking in bars, restaurants and all work places.
"The board of health discussed the issue at length and decided to amend the enforcement policy," said Kathleen Smith, Oswego County Health Commissioner. "Board members felt that since the law has been in effect for over 18 months, there has been ample time for owners and operators to come into compliance with it."
A notice of violation carrying a $1,000 fine will be issued the first time that smoking is confirmed in a facility in a county Health Department inspection. First time violators may be allowed a fine reduction to $500 with a stipulation agreement. Any subsequent violations will carry a $1,000 fine.
"While the majority of businesses in the county, including restaurants and taverns, are doing a good job of prohibiting indoor smoking, we continue to receive complaints," said Smith. She said she appreciates the continued efforts of businesses and organizations that comply with the law and protect their employees' and customers' health.
"As with all our programs, we are looking for voluntary compliance to the law," she said. "All places of employment, including bars and restaurants, are responsible for complying with the Clean Indoor Air Act unless they receive a waiver."
The Health Department staff conducts routine food service inspections of restaurants and taverns. Facilities are also inspected when the department receives a complaint from a member of the public.
Since the law took effect there have been 37 warning notices and 24 notices of violations issued. Several of the violations were referred for legal action and more than $11,000 was assessed in fines. Four facilities were repeat violators. In recent months, two taverns, the Hotel Martin and the Silver Mine, were charged with violations that are pending disposition. One other business, Cindy's Ship and Shore, paid a fine for allowing patrons or employees to smoke indoors. Warning notices for inspections were recently issued to 2 Bucks Place, Billy Bob's, Fran's Waterfront, Gorman's Tavern, Nasbar, Cheers of Scriba and the Richland Hotel.
Smith said many business owners might be confused or misinformed about a recent court decision in Suffolk County regarding the Clean Indoor Air Act. She emphasized that "in no way does the Suffolk County decision invalidate or change the requirements of the law in Oswego County."
To report a violation, contact the Division of Environmental Health at the Oswego County Health Department, 70 Bunner St., Oswego, phone 349-3557 or 1-800-596-3200, ext. 3557.
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