L. Brooks Patterson Pulls Back on Lawsuit Over Smoking Ban, Looks at Enforcement Options

By, Crystal A. Proxmire


On April 15, 2010 Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson announced in a news conference this afternoon that he has decided to withdraw lawsuit against State of Michigan that would have asked the court to order the state to pay for enforcement provisions of the smoking ban law. “The Oakland County Executive’s office received more than one hundred phone calls and emails from county residents who are very upset about the lawsuit and Patterson listened to those concerns when considering this matter,” according to a press release from Patterson’s office.


“I work for the people of Oakland County and through their emails and phone calls they have unanimously told me they are opposed to the lawsuit, therefore, I have instructed my corporation counsel to withdraw the suit,” Patterson said.


The state-wide smoking ban begins May 1, although a representative from Patterson’s office says that the Oakland County Executive must meet with the Director of the County Health Department George Miller to figure out how to enforce the new law. 


Patterson had previously announced that he would be filing a lawsuit against the state based on his belief that the ban was a violation of the Headlee amendment, which prohibits unfunded mandates from the state.  After receiving over 100 phone calls in the hours before a scheduled press conference, Patterson decided not to proceed.


The Oakland County Department of Health and Human Services currently has 26 health inspectors that do inspections at least twice a year at 4,600 restaurants.  The new law increases the number of businesses that fall under the smoking ban to 42,000.  “We do 17,000 inspections a year right now.  If we get more complaints that adds to the number of inspections we have to do,” the representative said.  “It’s important to note that Mr. Patterson is not opposed to the smoking ban, just the fact that it doesn’t come with any money to enforce it.”


When asked if the smoking ban would be enforced in Oakland County, the representative said that Patterson would need to get more information from Miller before determining the best course of action for the County.


In reference to Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson’s brief debate over whether or not Oakland County should sue the state over the upcoming smokefree air law, the Campaign for Smokefree Air issued this statement:

“Any claims that the smokefree air law is an unfunded mandate are false,” said Katherine Knoll, CSA spokesperson and senior director of advocacy at the American Heart Association. “Local health officers will not be required to do any more than they did before related to enforcement of smoking in-food service establishments. County health departments already inspect food service establishments, and count the ratio of ashtrays to smoking and non-smoking sections. Under the new law, they will be required to make sure no ashtrays are present, and that appropriate ‘no smoking’ signs are visible. These are changes to the food code that is good for public health.”

Knoll also pointed out that when polling Michigan voters, nearly 70 percent said they were in favor of smokefree air.

“Polls have shown that Michigan voters support smokefree air and they aren’t the only ones, 37 other states have successfully implemented smokefree air legislation, with little or no hiccups,” said Knoll.


For more information on Oakland County news visit http://www.oakgov.com/index.html.

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