Cancer groups challenge law exemption

Veterans have contacted ACS to voice their opposition to the exemption.
COLUMBUS -- The American Cancer Society and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network have filed suit in Franklin County Common Pleas Court challenging the exemption of private clubs from Ohio's new law banning indoor smoking.
The rule exempting private clubs, if they meet certain criteria including that employees be club members, was inserted by the Ohio Department of Health primarily at the behest of Veterans of Foreign Wars organizations.
Don McClure, chief executive officer of the ACS, Ohio Division, said, "We have repeatedly voiced our concern over this rule to ODH and have gone on record with Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review in opposition. As a result, the society is joined by Cancer Action Network in filing the suit."
McClure said the society and the Cancer Action Network led the campaign in 2006 to pass a strong, statewide smoke-free law to protect all workers' and customers' right to breathe smoke-free air.
He said ACS is pleased that the rule review committee voted to approve the rules to allow enforcement of the Smoke Free Ohio law to begin in early May but strongly disagrees with a rule exempt employees of private clubs if they are also members.
McClure said some 277 complaints have been filed with the state department of health over smoking at veterans' halls. Some veterans have contacted ACS to voice their opposition to this rule, and some testified likewise before the state rules committee Monday.
Many private club employees voted for this law to protect their health. Now they feel betrayed because they will not enjoy the protections of the law. Some workers fear they will lose their jobs if they do not qualify to become private club members just so smoking can be allowed to continue. Other employees feel this will weaken the law and make it unenforceable in private clubs, even when nonmembers are present, McClure said.
Several business owners also objected to the exemption, since the law was designed to create a fair and level playing field. By watering down the law, the state is breaking a promise to the 2.2 million Ohio voters who supported the Smoke Free Workplace Act, McClure said.
He said the lawsuit will not delay the enforcement of the remainder of the Smoke Free Workplace Act. But, it may help ensure that private club employees get to enjoy the smoke-free workplaces they were promised.