The Spokane Regional Health District has begun its own kind of emphasis patrol, seeking to find, educate and, if necessary, punish businesses that violate the state’s Smoking in Public Places law. The health district is adding a part-time staffer to investigate an additional 40 complaints a month.
The law, which took effect in 2005, made it illegal to smoke inside any public building or place of employment, and within 25 feet of entrances, exits, windows that open or ventilation intakes. Between 2006 and 2009, the health district wrote an average of about 540 warnings a year to businesses violating the law, according to Jill Johnson, spokeswoman for the district. Each warning came with a re-inspection fee of $75, which rose to $100 last year, she said.
The state Department of Health reports a 44 percent drop in the number of workers exposed to secondhand smoke since the law took effect.
The public is encouraged to report businesses that aren’t complying at (509) 232-1707 or online at www.srhd.org/services/ tobaccolaw.asp.