Eddie Agramonte owns one of the 1,750 businesses that received complaints since the smoking ban kicked in a year ago. Inspectors paid him a visit and he promised to comply but he’s still angry about it.
“You do your best. I am not here as a policeman. You can’t forcibly say to someone they can’t smoke in here. You can say please put it out. If they don’t, what am I supposed to do, throw them out?”
Many of the businesses, which received complaints, were actually stand-alone bars that are not covered by the law. Of the restaurants that were breaking the law only 35 have been filed or are in an administrative battle.
Inspectors are getting an earful from a few of the restaurants. One business in Collier County told the inspector they had deep pockets and for the state to “bring it on.”
The smoke-free for health coalition that pushed for the smoking ban says Florida is lenient about enforcing the rules and compliance around the state is inconsistent.
But the group found the smoking ban has actually been a boon to business. They say most restaurants are telling them business is up seven-percent since the no smoking ban took effect.
Meanwhile, Agramonte says he thinks it’s wrong.
“I think it’s wrong that people can tell me what I can do and can’t do in the business I’m paying for. And if cigarettes are so bad for you, quit selling them.”
Supporters of the Florida smoking ban would certainly agree with him on that one.
In Panama City/Bay County there have been ten complaints against restaurants for not enforcing the smoking ban. Two of those complaints involved bingo halls.