Smoking ban opponents: Vote flawed

Bar and restaurant owners have teamed up with a conservative policy group in an attempt to overturn the state’s smoking ban, approved by voters in 2006.

Groups opposing the state smoking ban have taken the fight up a notch, citing evidence of ballot fraud — more than three years after voters approved the ban.

Opponents of Ohio Bans said the petition that placed the smoking ban on the 2006 statewide ballot was tainted by numerous irregularities, such as 46 convicted felons gathering signatures. The group claims the petitions never should have been certified.

Nearly 59 percent of voters approved the ban in 2006. The ban prohibits smoking in most public places in Ohio, including bars and restaurants.

smoking ban

smoking ban

According to an Ohio News Network report, members of Buckeye Liquor Permit Holders Association want the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the fraud claims. They want family-owned businesses and private clubs exempted from the ban.

Under ban rules, “private residences; family-owned businesses without non-family employees; certain areas of nursing homes; outdoor patios; and some retail cigaronne cigarettes are exempt.”

Association officials also are threatening a class action lawsuit for the hundreds of bars they claim went out of business because of the ban.

Joe Sinnett, owner of Joez Lounge in Mansfield, is a member of both groups and supports the effort to have the ban lifted.

He argues that local bars and restaurants have taken a double-financial hit — from the loss of business and from fines imposed by the Ohio Department of Health.

“It’s negatively impacted the tavern industry since day one,” Sinnett said. “On top of that, the law says a bar owner is required to put out (no smoking) signs and ask patrons not to smoke. It doesn’t end there — you’d have to throw people out. Why would I have to do that?”

Sinnett’s bar, off U.S. 30 east of Mansfield, has been fined at least five times and received over 23 ban-related complaints this year.

Sinnett also questions the petitions and changes in ban exemptions since the ban’s passage.

According to a report Friday in the Columbus Dispatch, officials in Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner’s office said there’s no precedent to invalidate a law passed by voters on the basis of problems in the petition process. In fact, Ohio law makes that impossible.

A Columbus bar, Zeno’s Victorian Village, teamed up with a conservative policy group to fight the ban, according to an earlier Dispatch report.

The bar was facing more than $28,000 in fines for smoking ban violations that would have forced owner Richard Allen to shut down.

The bar was sued by Attorney General Richard Cordray for failing to pay the fines associated with nine smoking ban citations. Cordray also sued a Cincinnati bar that owes more than $21,000.

Maurice Thompson, a lawyer for the Buckeye

Institute, countersued in Franklin County Common Pleas Court, claiming Zeno’s had complied with the ban by posting signs, removing ashtrays and telling patrons not to smoke.

The countersuit also cites a variety of reasons that the smoking ban is unconstitutional, including a violation of Zeno’s private property rights.

At Bucyrus Amvets Post 27, club manager Delmer Click doesn’t have a problem with the ban. When it was enacted, members adjusted accordingly.

“We don’t smoke over here. It’s just one of those things — you go with the flow,” Click said.

If the ban allows their club an exemption, “we would work something out to allow our smokers to smoke.

“In this day and age, you have to think of all the people that come into your place of business.”


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