TERRE HAUTE —
Vigo County’s new smoke-free air law has resulted in only a few complaints since it took effect July 1, officials said Friday.
The Vigo County Health Department has received almost no complaints, said Sydney Elliott, the department’s media coordinator. She emphasized that the health department is the local enforcement agency for the new rules.
The Indiana Excise Police also take complaints about smoking law violations since Indiana adopted its own clean-indoor air law, also July 1.
The state’s new law is less strict than Vigo County’s ordinance, which bans smoking in virtually all indoor places of employment or business, including private clubs and bars. The state law exempts bars, casinos and private organizations.
Since July 1, state excise authorities have gotten six complaints in Vigo County, said Sgt. Bill Turner of the Indiana State Excise Police, District 5, which includes Vigo County and most of southwestern Indiana.
One of the six complaints reported to excise police in Vigo County concerned Ambrosini’s, a bar and restaurant on Wabash Avenue in Terre Haute. Steve Smith, owner of the business, said the complaint concerned either someone reportedly smoking in a restroom or possibly in the patio seating area outside the restaurant. The county and state laws both prohibit smoking within eight feet of an entrance to a nonsmoking building.
“They gave us a warning,” Smith said of the excise authorities, who he said arrived soon after the complaint was filed. After an inspection of his business, Smith was instructed to move a small trash can exclusively for cigarette butts to a spot more than eight feet from his patio door, he said. The can had been there to allow smokers to toss their cigarette butts before entering the building. Now the can is eight feet from the door, he said.
A follow-up inspection found Ambrosini’s in full compliance with the new regulations and no citations were issued from the complaint, Smith noted.
Other complaints received by the excise police in Vigo County have concerned the Terre Haute Fire Department, a local corporation, a veteran’s club and two unidentified establishments, according to state excise police reports. The Fire Department and the corporation complaints were marked as “anonymous” and “referred to Health Department.” The veteran’s club received a “notice of warning” and the two unidentified establishment complaints were referred to the health department.
“The complaints have been minimal” from Vigo County, Turner said.
The state excise police handle smoking complaints in establishments that sell alcohol and/or tobacco, Turner said. County health departments typically handle complaints concerning other establishments, he said. When complaints are received by excise police concerning establishments that do not sell alcohol or tobacco, those complaints are referred to the local health department, he said.
“People have been compliant” with the new rules, the Vigo County Health Department’s Elliott said Friday. “It’s been a positive change for the county.”
Three complaints have been filed with excise authorities concerning establishments in Clay County since July 1 and six in Parke County, most concerning restaurants near Raccoon Lake. Two of those complaints resulted in warnings. The other complaints were referred to the Parke County Health Department for further investigation.
Two complaints were filed in Sullivan County since July 1. Those were both dismissed as “unfounded” by excise authorities. There have been no complaints filed in Greene or Vermillion counties with the Indiana State Excise Police.
Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at (812) 231-4232 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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