State investigates smoking violations

Tieran Lewis

The Ohio Department of Health is investigating complaints of smoking ban violations in Portage County.

Jay Carey, director of public affairs at the Ohio Department of Health, said there are 93 complaints against Portage County businesses. Twenty-seven of those are in Kent.

Portage County health commissioner DuWayne Porter said the County Health Department hasn’t been able to enforce the ban due to lack of funding.

Carey said the Ohio Tobacco Prevention Foundation provided money to help enforce the ban.

“We received $800,000 from the Ohio Tobacco Prevention Foundation, and of that money, half of it went straight to local health departments,” he said.

The rest of the funds went toward state infrastructure.

The $400,000 given to the state was split between 133 local health districts. Portage County was offered $3,000 for operations between January and June of this year.

But Porter said that wasn’t enough to start the program.

“That money would have expired in June, and after that, there would have been no money available from the state or the tobacco prevention foundation,” he said.

A cost study has not been done to determine how much money is needed for the program, but Porter said the county cannot afford it.

“Just for instance, Cuyahoga County, on their first 100 inspections, found that 12 were valid,” he said. “So that means they sent an employee out to 88 sites at their cost without recouping any money, and we can’t do that.”

Porter said there will still be inspections, but they won’t be performed locally or as often.

But Carey said funding the smoking ban enforcement is a short-term investment because complaints decline after a year as smoke-free facilities become more accepted and people’s habits change.

Contact news correspondent Tieran Lewis at [email protected].