New Statewide Smoking Ban Goes into Effect Today

JULY 21, 2006 - Posted at 7:56 a.m. CDT

LITTLE ROCK, AR - A state Health Division lawyer says it will be awhile before civil penalties are in place to penalize violators of Arkansas' new smoking ban, which goes into effect today.  Lawyer Rick Hogan said state authorities will first try ways to educate the public on what penalties they could face.

The ban goes into effect today in all workplaces, with some exceptions.  Hogan said criminal penalties can be levied right away under the law, but civil penalties likely won't go into effect until August.

Hogan said rules for health officials to enforce the ban must still be approved by the state Health Board.  The rules go before the board next Thursday, and Hogan said the earliest that civil penalties could take effect would be August 7.

While those who violate the law will have time to become accustomed to it, Health and Human Services spokeswoman Julie Munsell said it is merely a transition period.  She said that, as long as businesses are working toward compliance, her agency would help them.

The new law allows smoking areas in certain businesses, including small hotels and motels, retail tobacco stores and long-term care facilities.  The law also includes an exemption for bars and restaurants that don't admit people under 21.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)