I spoke with Rudie Martinson of the North Dakota Hospitality Association this week about North Dakota’s expanded smoking ban which voters approved on the November ballot. Martinson pointed out that his association – which represents bars, restaurants, hotels and similar businesses in the state – is frustrated with a lot of unknowns in the law.
“I don’t know that I can say definitively and consistently just how the law is going to be enforced statewide,” Martinson told me. “That’s very frustrating from an industry standpoint.”
One aspect of the law Martinson pointed to as concerning is one pertaining to outdoor shelters used by many businesses to cater to smokers taking their habit outside into the elements. Martinson notes that the law bans smoking in any structure that is more than 33% enclosed by any material. He believes that could mean anything from plywood to a fenced-in area.
He also notes that businesses could be held accountable for smokers gathering outside a business. The law prohibits smoking within 20 feet of any door or window. While there is a provision allowing individual smokers to be ticketed, it also allows for businesses to potentially loose their various licenses and permits (business licenses, occupational licenses, professional licenses and liquor licenses) should they be held accountable. Martinson says his membership is worried about smokers standing on public side walks outside of businesses, or smoking in the cars in drive-through lanes.
Even more confusing is that, according to Martinson, this law may not be enforced uniformly across the state. “That’s hard for us when the goal posts are always moving,” he said.
Here’s a FAQ Martinson’s organization created for their membership about the new smoking ban: