Smoking ban takes effect July 30
Smoking will now be prohibited in enclosed public places in Morgan County, effective July 30.
The smoking policy changes were adopted on 6/19/03 by the Morgan County Health Department in their revised Morgan County Clean Indoor Air Regulation. Businesses were given time to prepare their establishments for the change in policy with the new smoking ordinance.
Smoking banned in these places
Smoking will be prohibited in all areas of grocery stores, retail stores and convenience stores, elevators, restrooms, restaurants, all waiting areas in businesses and non-profit agencies, enclosed shopping malls, polling places, bingo and fire halls, child care centers and sporting arenas.
The definition of sporting arenas means gymnasiums, health spas, roller rinks, swimming pools, bowling alleys and other similar places where people gather to engage in physical exercise or participate in or watch sports or athletic events.
Smoking will also be banned in all patient rooms, waiting rooms and other public areas in health facilities including but not limited to hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, doctor and dentist offices and physical therapy facilities.
Smoking will also be prohibited in all areas available to the public in all businesses and non-profit agencies patronized by the public such as offices, banks, hotels and motels.
Employers will be responsible for providing smoke-free areas for all employees.
Smoking will not be permitted within 15 feet of a public establishment so customers do not have to pass through smoking areas to reach non-smoking areas.
An owner whose facility is considered exempt from this regulation may declare their entire establishment as nonsmoking.
Exempt from regulation
Exempt from the ordinance are free-standing bars, private residences, unless used as a childcare or health care facility, and hotel and motel rooms rented to guests. Providing non-smoking rooms is recommended.
A free-standing bar is defined as an establishment that has 50% or more of its total sales from alcoholic beverages. It must be completely encased in an enclosed room with an impermeable wall that separates it from non-smoking areas of the building. A free-standing bar also prohibits the entry of those under 18.
Business owners and managers are required to post "No smoking" signs prominently in every building or place where smoking is controlled by this regulation.
By July 30, each employer with an enclosed place of employment should post a written non-smoking policy containing the following:
"Smoking shall be prohibited in all enclosed facilities within a place of employment without exception. This includes common work areas, auditoriums, classrooms, conference and meeting rooms, private offices, elevators, hallways, cafeterias, employee lounges, stairs, restrooms, vehicles and all other enclosed facilities."
Facilities that allow smoking must post signs advising patrons of the hazards of second-hand smoke and that minors are prohibited.
Violations have penalties
Effective July 30, it will be against the law to smoke in any area where smoking is prohibited by this regulation. It will also be unlawful for anyone controlling the use of an establishment covered by this ordinance to not comply with its provisions.
Anyone that obstructs a health official or other person in enforcing this smoking ordinance is guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction will be issued a fine that could range from $50 to $500.
Any person that willfully violates any provisions of this smoking ordinance is guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction will be punished by a fine of $200 to $1,000.
According to the ordinance, the Surgeon General has determined that "smoking is considered a cause of numerous diseases in healthy non-smokers, is a major contributor to indoor air pollution and is harmful to children, elderly and individuals with cardiovascular and/or respiratory diseases."
Smoking ordinances are being instituted all across America due to government regulations, said Morgan County Health Department Administrator Karen Dawson. Businesses had been given time to prepare for the county's new strict smoking rules going into effect, she said.
The smoking ordinance has been controversial, admitted Dawson. While there are debates about the smoking ordinance taking away the rights of smokers, Dawson questioned if smokers had the right to jeopardize others' health with their second-hand smoke.
Dawson encouraged employers to designate a smoking area for employees where the public is not going to be subjected to smoke while passing by and entering their business. She suggested that the area be located near their back entrance.
Dawson noted that the role of the Health Department is to protect the health of the public and employees. She said that they would work with people as much as they can to make the transition easier.
If any questions or problems arising from the new ordinance going into effect, call Dawson at 258-1513.