Panel explains new ban, offers tips

PLYMOUTH — The Marshall County Health Department hosted a public meeting Tuesday evening to answer questions county residents might have on the statewide ban on smoking in public places and places of employment, which has been in effect since July 1. The meeting was held in the Marshall County Building and those interested were invited to ask questions of a panel that included Sandy Read, Marshall County Health Educator; Rachelle Back, Indiana State Department of Health representative, and Javier Arroyo, excise officer.
Back explained that the law is not comprehensive, meaning that there are some exceptions.
“The law covers most public places and places of employment,” said Back.
She added that for a location to be considered a “public place” it must be enclosed on all four sides. A park pavilion, for example, would not be affected by the smoking ban because it is not enclosed.
Steve and Linda Jacobson, of Plymouth, asked a question about the Plymouth Elks Lodge — whether the lodge would fall into the category of a restaurant since they serve food one night a week. Under the smoking ban, restaurants are required to post two signs on each door and an additional two interior signs. Arroyo explained that the lodge would not be considered a restaurant under the law. He added that the lodge could apply for an exemption in order to continue to allow smoking at their facility. The Jacobsons also inquired whether they would still be able to hold their annual Christmas meal and visit with Santa for children in the community. Arroyo said that if the lodge did continue to allow smoking, they would no longer be permitted to have anyone in the building under 18 years of age, even if smoking was not going on during the time children would be present. He suggested that the Elks could continue hosting their holiday event in a separate facility.
As for enforcing the smoking ban, Back explained that local health department representatives would be responsible to deal with any violation at a business, and an excise officer would handle any violation from a place with a license to sell alcohol.
“Our law is a complaint-driven system,” said Back.
She said that since July 1, there have been about 100 complaints filed in the whole state.
Instructions to report a violation can be found on the website, More information for businesses and individuals, including tips on how to quit smoking and a toolkit for businesses, can also be found on the site.
Read said that she has been delivering sign toolkits to business owners around Marshall County, and speaking with them about the ban when she can.
“Hopefully the buzz will get around (about required signage) and business owners will start talking to each other,” said Read.
She said that even if a business is already non-smoking, they must post a sign stating that smoking is not allowed within eight feet of the entrance on every outside door. It does not have to be a sign from the state — businesses can create their own sign — but signs are available for free on the site.
Read also pointed out that businesses are free to make a stricter smoking rule if they wish. For example, People’s Drugstore does not allow people to smoke in the drive-thru.
“Cities and counties can adopt a stricter ordinance,” added Back. “(The state law) is the minimum.”