Health Officials Stepping Up Enforcement of State's Smoking Ban

LITTLE ROCK, AR - The number of inspections of businesses accused of violating Arkansas' workplace smoking ban more than tripled over the past four months as health officials stepped up enforcement of the law.

Arkansas health director Paul Halverson says that in July, the state dropped its policy of waiting until after multiple complaints have been lodged to inspect a business accused of violating the ban.  Now, the state conducts inspections after one complaint.

Since July 1, the state has performed 74 inspections of 45 businesses accused of violating the smoking ban.  In the first year of the ban, the state had only conducted 23 inspections.

Legislators approved the ban during a 2006 special legislative session.  Since the ban took effect in 2006, the state has received 665 complaints by phone or online.

Under the law, violators face fines of up to $500 for a criminal violation and $1,000 for a civil violation of the new law.  Halverson says the state has not yet fined anyone for breaking the law.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)