(COLUMBUS, Ohio)— Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine praised the unanimous Ohio Supreme Court ruling issued today that upheld both the constitutionality and the state’s enforcement of the citizen-initiated and voter-approved law restricting workplace smoking. Zeno’s bar in Columbus, which owes more than $40,000 as a repeat violator of the smoking ban, had challenged the law.
“This is great news for the health of Ohioans and for the democratic process,” said Attorney General DeWine, whose office serves as counsel for the state Department of Health. “The Ohio Supreme Court has upheld a law passed by a statewide majority of Ohio voters, and patrons and employees of Ohio businesses will continue to enjoy surroundings that are safer because they are smoke-free.”
The Smoke Free Workplace Act was enacted through the state’s initiative process in 2006. It is a health and occupational safety law that restricts smoking inside most public places, such as bars and restaurants, as well as workplaces.
Investigations into violations of the law are complaint-driven. Despite repeated notifications of violations of the law from 2007-2009, Zeno’s refused to pay the incurred fines.
The state Department of Health, which is charged with enforcing the smoking law, sought an injunction against Zeno’s in light of its repeated violations of the law. Zeno’s initiated a counter claim challenging the constitutionality of the law and its enforcement. Zeno’s won the case in a Franklin County trial court, but on appeal the Tenth District Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s ruling. Zeno’s then appealed to the Supreme Court. Today’s ruling echoes much of what the court of appeals concluded earlier.
“The voters of Ohio also have a legitimate purpose in protecting the general welfare and health of Ohio citizens and workforce from the dangers of secondhand smoke in enclosed public places,” Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger wrote in the 7-0 majority opinion. “The Smoke Free Act is a valid exercise of the state’s police power by Ohio voters and does not amount to a regulatory taking. The judgment of the court of appeals is affirmed.”
Dan Tierney: 614-466-3840
Lisa Hackley: 614-466-3840
Copy of Ohio Supreme Court decision (PDF)
Copy of Ohio Attorney General's merit brief (PDF)