Changes proposed in state's clean indoor air rules
The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has published a set of proposed changes to state rules that govern smoking in public places and places of work, opening a 30-day period for public comment on the new rules.
MDH has been conducting a comprehensive review of the rules it uses to enforce the 26-year-old Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act (MCIAA). The review, which has been underway since July 1999, was undertaken in response to changes that were made in the MCIAA during the 1999 legislative session.
Although public discussion of the new rules has thus far tended to focus on how they will affect restaurants, the proposed changes are much broader than that, according to Laura Oatman, supervisor of the Indoor Air Unit at MDH.
"We've proposed some changes in ventilation requirements for restaurants, and that part of this project has tended to draw most of the attention from the media and the public," Oatman said. "But the task at hand is broader and more comprehensive than that. The proposed changes will also affect the workplace, retail stores and lodging establishments."
The review process included an extensive examination of the available scientific literature on the health effects of environmental tobacco smoke, she noted. The new rules were drafted with the help of a special Rulemaking Advisory Committee, which included major stakeholders affected by the rule changes.
Among the proposed changes:
Â· Restaurants. New restaurants will have two options - either go completely smoke free, or take steps to ensure that patrons in the non-smoking area are not exposed to air from the smoking section. New restaurants that opt to have a smoking section must:
(1) install a ventilation system that keeps the air pressure lower in the smoking section than in the rest of the building;
(2) make sure the ventilation system is designed so that air from the smoking section is always released to the outside of the building - never re-circulated into the non-smoking area; and
(3) either wall off the smoking section completely from the rest of the restaurant, or use a ventilation system that only allows air to move in one direction - from the non-smoking area to the smoking area.
Existing restaurants will be able to retain their current arrangements for smoking and non-smoking patrons - but they will need to eliminate any seating in the current "buffer zone" between the smoking and non-smoking areas, and they must post signs warning non-smokers about possible exposure to second-hand smoke.
Â· Hotels, Motels and Resorts. Like restaurants, lodging establishments can either go entirely smoke-free, or designate areas where smoking is permitted. Smoking permitted areas can include private, enclosed offices; designated areas of employee lunch rooms or lounges; designated portions of common areas like lobbies, pool areas, or game rooms; designated portions of restaurants; and bars located on-premises. Common areas can't be designated as "smoking-permitted" in their entirety.
Ventilation and barrier requirements for "smoking-permitted" areas would be similar to those for new restaurants. MCIAA rules do not apply to individual guest rooms, or to conference halls used for private functions.
Â· Retail Stores. Under the new rules, retail stores can go completely smoke-free, or restrict smoking to designated areas. They can allow smoking in enclosed, private offices, or designated areas of employee lunch rooms or lounges. Smoking can also be permitted in a customer area, but only if the same goods or services are also available in a smoke-free area.
Ventilation and barrier requirements for smoking-permitted areas in retail stores would be similar to those for new restaurants. The new rules would not apply to establishments that derive 90 percent or more of their revenue from the sale of tobacco products.
Â· Places of Work. The proposed rules would, for the first time, apply the same workplace restrictions to office buildings and facilities like warehouses or factories. Once again, places of work can go smoke-free, or restrict smoking to designated areas. Smoking-allowed areas can include enclosed, private offices, or designated areas in employee lounges or lunch rooms. If there is no lounge or lunch room, one smoking-permitted area can be designated for every 20,000 square feet of floor space. And once again, ventilation and barrier requirements for smoking areas would be similar to those for new restaurants.
The comment period for the proposed rules runs through 4:30 p.m. on Jan. 2. A hearing on the rules will be held on Jan. 30, if at least 25 people submit a written request to MDH. To be considered, a request for hearing must be in the hands of MDH staff by the end of the comment period.
A number of documents relating to the proposed rule changes are available for review on the MDH website at www.health.state.mn.us/divs/eh/aialr/iair/mciaarule.
Items available on the website include (1) the agency's "dual notice" of intent to adopt the rules and, if necessary, hold a hearing on January 30; (2) a series of fact sheets explaining the rule changes; (3) a formal Statement of Need and Reasonableness, which provides detailed information about the new rules and the rationale for the proposed revisions; and (4) a link to the actual text of the new rules.
Individuals who want to comment on the rules or get more information can contact Georg Fischer at MDH. Mr. Fischer can be reached by mail at the Indoor Air Unit, Minnesota Department of Health, 121 E. 7th Pl./Box 64975, St. Paul 55164-0975; by phone at (651) 215-0932; by fax at (651) 215-0975; or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.