Monday, May 11, 2009

Erie County, Ohio Health Department May Have to Fine Itself

If the Ohio State Health Department follows its own rules, they may have to fine the Erie County Health Department, because someone violated the statewide smoking ban.

Paul Hauke, Jr., a bar owner from Sandusky, became the first Ohioan to receive a written warning for violating the smoking ban, Jay Carey, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Health, told the Sandusky Register. All other written warnings and fines have been given to business owners, not individuals.

And therein lies the problem. The law basically says that if a person lights up in a business, and they don't provide a way for the businesses to make patrons stop smoking.

According to the Register story, businesses get a written warning for the first offense, and then fines of $100, $500, $1,000 and $2,500 for each violation, whereas individuals only get the letter and a $100 fine.

While I'm an anti-smoker myself, I still think Hauke's is stunt kind of funny. I can appreciate his anger and frustration, and like the audacity of his action, because right or wrong, it does draw attention to the plight of some small business owners.

According to the law, the Erie County Health Department should get a warning letter soon. And if anyone goes back and smokes again, the ECHD will owe the state $100, and then $500 for another violation, and so on.

This does NOT mean several of you should drive to the ECHD to 420 Superior St., Sandusky, OH 33870 and light up in protest so they have to pay thousands of dollars in ironic fines.

But this isn't Hauke's first time doing it. He did the same thing in the Findlay municipal building a couple weeks ago. This time, he also threatened to call a state tattler's hotline to file a complaint against the ECHD for permitting a smoking violation.

Erie County health commissioner Pete Schade said Hauke is missing the point by lighting up inside the ECHD building.

“That’s like driving drunk to the police station and then complaining that there’s a drunk driver on the road,” Schade said.



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