The state still has a large number of businesses -- 394 -- that have opted out of the ban. The law allows smoking areas in certain businesses, including small hotels and motels, retail tobacco stores and businesses with fewer than three employees. The law also includes an exemption for bars and restaurants that don't admit people under 21.However, also interesting is the means used to enforce this smoking ban in Arkansas. The state is increasing its enforcement of this measure:
Most of the exemptions granted -- 293 -- were for bars and restaurants. Others are mostly for small businesses and small hotels. Tobacco shops, nursing homes and the Oaklawn Park race track in Hot Springs and the Southland Park greyhound track in West Memphis are exempt under the original law and did not need to seek their own exemptions.
Arkansas health director Paul Halverson said the state in July dropped its policy of waiting until after multiple complaints have been lodged to inspect a business accused of violating the ban, which took effect last year. Now, the state conducts inspections after one complaint.Would a federal ban signed by Huckabee have the same enforcement provisions?
"What we did was move to a more aggressive position," Halverson said.
Since July 1, the state has conducted 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, according to the Department of Health.
Legislators approved the ban during a 2006 special legislative session after then-Gov. Mike Huckabee backed it as a way to protect workers' health. Since the ban took effect in 2006, the state has received 665 complaints by phone and online.
Health officials said the number of inspections reflect initial inspections and some unannounced follow-up inspections of businesses.