North Dakota's new, tougher smoking ban took effect Thursday, but plenty of questions remain, most notably, how will the new law be enforced?
The new law bans smoking in most public places, as well as in workplaces previously exempted, including bars, restaurants and tobacco shops. Smokers are not allowed to light up within 20 feet of any businesses' entrance, working window or ventilation intake. The ban also applies to electronic cigarettes.
Individuals and businesses breaking the new law face escalating fines, and businesses who are repeat offenders could face the loss of licenses.
The biggest problem will be enforcement. Do the Minot Police Department or the Ward County Sheriff's Department have the time or manpower to strictly enforce the law's 20-foot rule? Hardly. If an officer does see someone standing near a business entrance, does that officer have time to decide if the smoker is violating the 20-foot rule? What if the smoker is standing away from a doorway, but close to a window? How would the police officer know if the window was a working window capable of being opened or not? How long do businesses have to comply with regulations requiring the posting of no smoking signs at entrances and on any work-related vehicles?
Much of the enforcement will be left to businesses, who will have to educate their employees on the details of the law. That means there's going to be a steep and lengthy learning curve as everyone tries to make the necessary changes to be in compliance with the law's changes.