Florida's new ban on smoking in all indoor workplaces goes into effect at midnight Monday, and state officials are already trying to head off potential problems. The Florida Health Department and Department of Business and Professional Regulation have set up phone lines for people to call with questions or complaints. Those charged with enforcing the smoking ban are hoping people cooperate.
Geoff Luebkemann has a big job ahead. He'll oversee enforcement of the restaurant portion of Florida's new workplace smoking ban. Luebkemann says ideally, customers and business owners will cooperate.
“We've all heard the smoking police referenced and we hope that we don't get to that place,” says Luebkemann.
The law essentially turns average citizens into the smoking police because enforcement is based on complaints. Where it gets tricky is employees have no job protection under the law if they complain about a boss who won't stop smoking or who allows smoking.
One of the areas where the new law is a little confusing is the outdoor seating issue. Restaurants can let people smoke outside only if no more than half of the roof or walls are enclosed.
Café owner Charlie Young’s literally got out the tape measure to make sure he could allow smokers on his deck.
“It's pretty nice to have an outdoor seating option. That way people can actually sit down, enjoy their meal and smoke at the same time,” says Young.
Still, state regulators know there could be trouble. Confrontations turned violent over smoking bans in places like New York City.
“That is why we are absolutely imploring the public and the business community to be patient. Let's all think this through. It's a passionate issue but no one needs to get hurt over it,” says Luebkemann.
The state says it won't be out looking for people breaking the rules, but if someone refuses to put out a cigarette in a workplace business owners do have the right to call police.
Business owners could receive up to a $500 fine for a first violation of the smoking ban. The fine could be up to $2,000 for a second or third violation.
For questions or to complain about a restaurant or hotel that is violating the smoking ban, you can call the State Department of Business and Professional Regulation's Tallahassee office at 850-487-1395 or log onto the agency's website at www.state.fl.us/dbpr.
For all other workplaces, contact the State Department of Health toll-free at 800-337-3742.