Smokers Will Not Be Fined - Yet

CINCINNATI (AP) - State officials have agreed not to issue any warning letters or fines for violations of Ohio's new smoking ban until the law's rules and regulations are completed.

Attorneys representing a trade group that filed a lawsuit trying to block Ohio's new smoking ban agreed Thursday to put their lawsuit on hold in exchange for assurance by the state that it would not fine any alleged violators until the law's rules are in place.

Attorneys for the trade group and for the Ohio Department of Health say that, under a requested consent decree, the state would not issue any warning letters or fines for complaints it receives before the law's rules and regulations are completed. Lawyers said they expect to file the agreement Friday in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court.

The smoking ban, which went into effect Thursday, was approved Nov. 7 by 58 percent of Ohio voters. The state has until June 7 to finalize the law's rules and regulations but hopes to have them in place in May.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday by the Buckeye Liquor Permit Holders Association representing liquor license holders will remain on hold for now, while the state is working out the rules.

The trade group, which claims the ban is unconstitutional, had requested a restraining order preventing enforcement of the ban that prohibits smoking in nearly all public buildings and work places. Exceptions include tobacco shops, designated hotel rooms and enclosed areas of nursing homes.

The law was backed by the American Cancer Society. Bar and restaurant owners have said they will lose business because of the ban, especially in areas near bordering states without such restrictions.