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January 7, 2008

Feb. 1 indoor smoking ban is opportunity for owner of new business

(Continued)

CUMBERLAND, Md. —

County officials said there has been little, if any, public discord over the issue.

“We honestly haven’t gotten a whole lot of questions from the public,” said Brian Dicken, director of environmental health at Allegany County Health Department. “With any kind of regulation that comes along that’s different, there’s that learning curve that not only the public has but that the inspectors have as well.”

He said county inspectors are scheduled to undergo training Jan. 22 in Hagerstown. The training is to help the inspectors understand how to enforce the changes.

Dicken said he doesn’t think the new regulations would be much of a burden on the county’s four inspectors or the 434 food service establishments they oversee. Most businesses are inspected at least twice each year, Dicken said, and “We have a very good working relationship with all the facilities that we inspect.”

The law does allow for punitive measures. A first violation would warrant a written reprimand by state health officials. A second violation could subject a business owner to a $100 civil penalty. Fines increase to “not less than $250” for each subsequent violation.

Dicken said “he doubts” any county business would incur fines and that it’s not as if the anti-smoking police force is gearing up to go door-to-door.

Complaints are taken by the health department from customers. Employees of a business should continue to report complaints to Maryland Occupational Safety and Health.

“I think it’s going to take people a while to understand what the regulations are,” Dicken said. Basically, here’s what you have to do: You have to have signage, be cooperative and that’s it.”

Business owners can apply for temporary waivers from the new regulations but first must show at least two months of a 15 percent or more loss. The loss must be associated with the smoking ban. If approved, a waiver will expire in February 2011.

Visit http://cha.state.md.us/oeh/ciaa, the state’s Office of Environmental Health, for more information.



Kevin Spradlin writes for the Cumberland (Md.) Times-News.

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