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Smoking ban upsets private clubs

The Ohio Department of Health is in its final stages of compiling a set of rules for the new statewide smoking ban. An advisory committee met Tuesday to discuss a draft of the rules which has some private clubs up in arms.

"An 18-year-old kid left home to go into the military, and they pushed the cigarettes on him. And now there telling him 60 years later, no, you can't smoke," Seagraves said.

That's William Seagraves. He's the Ohio commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars and a member of the advisory committee assisting the state health department in determining a set of rules for the new smoking ban. Seagraves, and other private clubs like Allied Clubs, are upset about the conditions that must be met in order to be exempt from the smoking ban.

Under the Ohio Revised Code, a private club can not have employees, those who work for pay and those who do not. And Seagraves said that's going to be a problem because most VFWs have employees who are members.

"They're willing to say, if there's an employee, employer relationship, it's not considered a private club. Which we consider ourselves as private clubs. But they are members, we want to consider them as members rather than employees. We want our clubs, which are private clubs, again, to have the right to make a decision, do they want to go smoke free, or they don't," Seagraves said.

Socrates Tuch is an assistant counsel for the Ohio Health Department. Tuch said the private clubs are upset because most of them would not meet the new requirements.

"Many of them employ individuals who are members of their club. The fact that they are now employers takes them outside the prescribed exception of private clubs. It makes it a place of employment which renders the area subject to regulation," Tuch said.

When asked about what VFWs will do, Seagraves said it's going to be up to the different clubs.

"If they wanted to smoke during certain times of the day they would have to have volunteer help and that means the paid employee would be laid off," Seagraves said.

But, again, the new law says a volunteer could be considered an employee even if he or she is not paid.

The state passed a non-smoking law November 7 and it took effect last month. The Ohio Department of Health must have rules set in place by June 7 - when fines will begin to be issued. The ODH hopes to have the final draft of rules completed by the end of this month.