COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohios statewide smoking ban is constitutional, the state Supreme Court ruled unanimously Wednesday.
The court rejected claims by a Columbus tavern owner that argued the fines it was charged for violations were an illegal taking of property, violating the states legitimate police powers.
Ohio Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger, in authoring the opinion, wrote, The goal of this legislation is to protect the health of the workers and other citizens of Ohio. It does so by regulating proprietors of public places and places of employment in a minimally invasive way.
Zenos Victorian Village had been cited 10 different times between July 2007 and September 2009, with fines totaling $33,000.
On behalf of its owners, the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law argued that the smoking ban was supposed to be enforced against smokers, not businesses.
Maurice Thompson, the bars attorney, called the ruling discouraging. He said it means theres really no meaningful limit on the regulation of private property in Ohio by the government.
Thompson said it is unlikely the center would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court on a federal property-rights issue, even though Ohios is the first state Supreme Court to rule on that issue with regard to a smoking ban. He said Ohio has some of the strongest property protection laws in the country.
Thompson said he expects the fight to move to the state legislature, where a bill is already in the works to exempt bars from the ban.
Overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2006, Ohios ban prohibits smoking in most indoor public places. Penalties for proprietors violating the ban range from a warning letter for a first violation to fines of $100 to $2,500 for subsequent violations. Fines can be doubled for intentional violations.