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Smoking Ban Woes

Nearly 800 people have complained to state regulators about smoking violations in Florida restaurants and other businesses since a new law took effect on July 1, but the law is so new there is great uncertainty on what happens next.

Sonya Bradwell is on the front line in the fight against indoor smoking. That's because she's on the other end of the phone when people call the Department of Health to report violations.

"I'm very angry and upset, and wondering why we are not enforcing the law," says Sonya.

So far, 178 complaints have been made to the Department of Health. One problem is that the agency hasn't developed rules to enforce the new law yet.

"Under the law, rule making would take place within 180 days, so a lot of these issues will be addressed during the rule making," says DOH spokesman, Bill Pareziak.

Across town, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation takes complaints about smoking against hotels and restaurants. So far, 607 people have complained there. Geoff Luebkemann is in charge of enforcement.

"We go out and make sure they are aware of their responsibilities and we leave them with a warning. That is what the law requires us to do, and they have 30 days to comply with that warning," says Luebkehmann.

Because the law is so new, no notices of violation have been sent out yet. One problem is that lawyers still have not worked out what will happen if violations continue.

"It appears to be either administrative or civil, our attorney's are advising us on that. As you know we are 28 days in yet, so we haven't had an opportunity to make a case," says Luebkemann.

Another problem is the Department of Business Regulation encourages complaints be made via the Internet, but some complaints may have been lost because the site doesn't like some Netscape browsers.

The problem is that site will not let you click on the restaurant area to file a complaint, but in the end, the state is confident the kinks will get worked out and indoor air will get cleaner.

To report violations in businesses other than hotels and restaurants, call the Department of Health at 800-337-3742.

To report smoking violations in eateries, bars or hotels, visit the Department of Business and Professional Regulation at https://www.myfloridalicense.com/Default.asp


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