Many across Ohio have criticized this ban, fearing, among other things, that it will have a negative impact on local businesses.
According to the Ohio Secretary of State Web site listing unofficial results, the bill, labeled Issue 5 on the ballot, passed with 2,185,659 votes in favor to 1,564,833 against.
The bill could still fail though, if enough provisional and absentee votes are counted against it. However, the Web site says that only 211,656 provisionals have been filed in the state (including 853 in Scioto County), which still would not provide enough votes to reject the proposed law.
The new law would prohibit smoking in public places and places of employment. Opponents to this law claim it intrudes on the rights of the individuals and business owners to make their own decisions. Supporters of the law cite public health concerns, adding that by simply asking smokers to step outside to smoke, all Ohioans can enjoy their favorite places together.
Managers at Damon's Bar & Grill in Portsmouth say they don't expect it to affect their business much at all.
“People come in here to enjoy their dinner, and I don't think smoking has anything to do with the food that you serve,” said Manager Vickie Compan, adding that she thinks customers might instead choose not to stay as long, so they can get back outside to smoke.
“I think employees will have a rougher time than guests, because they're working and won't be able to smoke their whole shift,” Compan said. “Once they adjust, it will be fine.”
But not everyone sees the law so benignly, and some still think the government has overstepped its boundaries.
“I voted against the ban, for the business,” said Sam Simon, of the Blockhouse bar. “(But) I understand it's a democratic society, and the people have spoken, and they say we're not free to smoke in the bar, so we've got to go with that.”
Simon said it's been a frequent topic of conversation in his business, saying the general consensus in his bar, from smokers and nonsmokers alike, is that it goes too far.
“It is infringing on some of our rights, and I feel a little apprehensive about that,” he said.
Lenora Hickman, of Hickie's Old Fashioned Hamburgers in New Boston, said she also disagrees with the law.
“I think it's my choice if I want to let someone smoke or not. I don't like to be told that I can't do it. But I'll abide by the law,” she said. “It will affect my business because we've got so many people that do smoke. I'll probably lose some, but I think they'll come back because it's all over. I can't imagine it being a big impact.”
However, this new legislation also has it's share of supporters who call the law a breath of fresh air.
The Ohio Tobacco Prevention Foundation issued the following statement following the passage of Issue 5:
“The passing of Issue 5 ... on yesterday's (Nov. 7) ballot are enormous victories for Ohio citizens and the overall health of our state. The Ohio Tobacco Prevention Foundation Board of Trustees and staff are extremely proud that Ohioans recognized the detrimental effects of secondhand smoke and took their own stand - voting for a healthier Ohio with clean indoor air in all public places.”
Businesses and individuals found in violation of the law could face fines from the department of health, and repeat offenders could be brought before the court of common pleas by the director of health.
A similar law, labeled Issue 4, would have prohibited smoking in enclosed areas, with a few exceptions, such as private residences, and separate smoking areas of restaurants and most bars.
Issue 4 failed to pass by nearly 1.1 million votes.
RYAN SCOTT OTTNEY can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 235.