Board of Health ignites stiff penalities for smoking scofflaws

The Kitsap County Board of Health approved a stiff clean indoor air ordinance, adopting the harsher version of two draft proposals submitted by staff.

“We want to first educate the public about the ordinance,” said Dr. Scott Lindquist, the county’s senior health official. “But we now have the ability to revoke the business license of any food establishment that does not comply with the rules.”

The ordinance, approved on Tuesday, follows a statewide version approved by the voters which prohibits smoking in any restaurant or bar. This extends to areas within 25 feet of any door or working window, although few establishments physically designate that limit.

There are no patrols of food establishments to ensure their compliance with the ordinance. The Health District only steps in after the filing of a complaint.

License revocation is a last resort, following the issuance of a citation and the refusal of the establishment to enforce the ordinance and issuance of an injunction by the Superior Court.

The establishment can then file an appeal, which the health district must consider within two days. The restaurant owner may apply for and receive an exception to the 25-foot rule if there is a reason that it cannot be met.

“Food establishments are treated differently than other businesses because they can affect the health of the community,” Lindquist said. “This is a law that most people have complied with, and the benefit has been achieved.”

The Board of Health also received a report from an unofficial committee of health, justice and law enforcement officials throughout the county, called the Decision Makers, examining the future of county health care.

Much of this boils down to mental health and substance abuse programs, which are components in almost every case treated by the Health District.

The committee reported that the lack of sufficient short-term beds for emergency mental health and substance abuse resources causes a drain on emergency room services.

“We have a huge problem,” said Harrison Medical Center CEO Scott Bosch. “It will need money, although we are throwing a lot of money at it already. It’s a huge issue that is not going away.”

Bosch, who called the situation “heartbreaking and frightening,” said creative financing would be needed for its resolution.

The Decision Makers’ report had no funding suggestions. The Board of Health directed the committee to suggest funding options.

The Kitsap County commissioners could impose a sales tax increase that could immediately fund some programs.

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