OK Restaurants Given 30 Days to Comply with Smoking Rules

Article excerpt

Businesses such as restaurants will be given 30 days from Monday to comply with new regulations requiring them either to go smoke- free, all-smoking or install separate ventilation systems in segregated rooms for their smoking customers.
The emergency rules, passed by the State Health Board and signed last week by Gov. Frank Keating, became effective Monday. They must still pass muster with the Legislature, which convenes next February.
The Oklahoma Restaurant Association is challenging the rules in district court. The health department has filed an action seeking to have the case heard in federal court in Tulsa. On Monday, U.S. District Judge James Payne denied a request from a Sapulpa restaurant and VFW post to issue a temporary retraining order preventing the rules from taking effect.
State health officials said that the 30-day implementation period will help ensure a reasonable education process aimed at achieving full compliance.
A toll-free number has been established to handle questions from businesses and the public: 1-866-ONLY AIR (1-866-665-9247).
"Our staff will be available immediately to help public places and workplaces come into full compliance during this 30-day implementation period," said Rocky McElvany, chief of the Consumer Protection Service at the health department.
The toll-free line is automated, but callers may leave a phone number to receive a personal callback or request information by mail. It may also be used to order free "Breathe Easy" decals. These are for display at smoke-free or "effectively smoke-free" establishments that set up ventilated smoking areas.
Over the next 30 days, McElvany said, the agency will stress voluntary compliance and public education.
"Those establishments that have not yet determined how they will comply with the rules may want to consider going completely smoke-free," he said. "This is the simplest way to comply with the rule while also providing the greatest level of protection for both workers and the public."
McElvany said that the public is encouraged to help promote compliance.
"Voluntary compliance will be sought whenever possible and good-faith efforts to comply will be recognized and appreciated," he added. "After the 30-day implementation period, multiple, continued violations could result in fines. License suspensions would only be used as a last resort."
State restaurant officials say that their lawsuit, filed Thursday in Creek County District Court, is not about smoking rights. …