Cochise County preparing for new Smoke-Free Arizona LawBY SHAR PORIER/Wick News Service
BISBEE - With the Smoke-Free Arizona Act set to be implemented May 1, the Cochise County Health Department is gearing up for educational programs and investigational procedures to make sure businesses abide by the new law.
To make owners aware of the responsibilities businesses have to post "no smoking" signs, educational materials will be distributed, said Vaira Harik, county Health Department director. In her presentation to the Board of Supervisors Tuesday, she said that in studies of restaurant and hotel receipts, no demonstrable negative impact has been shown and that the bans can produce a positive impact after non-smoking policies have been enacted.
The new law prohibits smoking in most indoor public places, including restaurants and bars, lobbies, elevators, restrooms, any place of employment and healthcare and child-care facilities.
The exceptions are private residences, designated hotel and motel rooms, retail tobacco stores, veteran and fraternal clubs, outdoor patios, certain theatrical performances, casinos and tribal religious ceremonies.
"No smoking" signs will have to be posted on all entry ways, and ashtrays must be removed. Designated outdoor smoking areas must be 20 feet away from entrances, windows and air intake vents, Harik said.
The county agency is charged with providing educational materials to businesses and citizens.
"The materials are ordered from the ADHS (Arizona Department of Health Services) and are provided free of charge to businesses and individuals," she said. "$91,250 in state funds will be granted to ensure that the materials are available and to investigate complaints. We will forward our investigative findings to the state office and they will handle the enforcement."
The enforcement end of things is tricky. Since none of the department's employees are deputized, they have no way to enforce compliance. Other counties also passed that duty to the state.
"This is expensive and time consuming," she noted.
Upon receiving a complaint passed on from the state health agency, the county Health Department will perform the initial investigation within 15 days. Depending on the severity of the complaint, a notice will be issued and an inspection performed. All complaints have to be tracked.
Once the investigation is complete, the findings, if warranted, are passed on to state health department for enforcement.
Once a complaint is reviewed, the state health agency can issue a notice of violation and can assess a fine, which can be any amount between $100 and $500. Each day a violation occurs constitutes a separate violation and a separate fine. If a business feels they have been unfairly charged, there is an appeal process.
To receive the funding to pay for the added activity, the county had to enter into an intergovernmental agreement with Arizona Department of Health Services that runs from May 1 through June 30, 2012.
The supervisors unanimously approved the intergovernmental agreement.
They also approved a delegation agreement between the county Health Department and state health agency that gives the authority to carry out the duties required to implement the Smoke-Free Arizona Act.
Where to call
- The telephone number for making complaints on businesses is 1-877-4-AZNOSMOKE, or 1-877-429-6676.
- To just contact the Arizona Department of Health Services: 1-877-AZSTOPS, or 1-877-297-8677.