Outdoor patios may be a breath of fresh air for area restaurants and bars.
Under the recent Ohio Issue 5, smoking is banned indoors at all public places and places of employment -- but outdoors is another story.
Some restaurants had plans to add patios long before Issue 5 took effect, but the smoker-friendly environments could very well be bringing back some customers who had been deterred by the smoking ban.
The Fireside Lounge, Cameo Pizza and Markley's are among many local restaurants that now feature patios.
According to David Bier, owner of the Fireside Lounge, his establishment made plans to add a patio when the smoking ban went into effect.
These outdoor patios are being enjoyed by smokers and non-smokers alike.
"It's great. That's where everybody goes on sunny days," said Scotty Himmelein, manager of the Fireside Lounge.
On Nov. 5, 2006, Ohio voters passed Issue 5, a constitutional amendment banning smoking in all enclosed public places and places of employment as of Dec. 5, 2006. Active enforcement of the ban began on May 3.
Alexandra Houser, director of public relations for the American Cancer Society of Ohio, pointed out 2.2 million Ohio voters supported a smoke-free workplace. Outdoor patios may help establishments with patrons who smoke ease into the smoking ban, she said.
"It's less of a health hazard for sure," Houser said of secondhand smoke that becomes diffused on the outdoor patios.
Kristopher Weiss, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Health, said outdoor patios that allow smoking are completely legal under the new Ohio laws.
"There has to be a free flow of air," Weiss explained. "Basically the standard is that more than 50 percent of the enclosure had to be open to the air."
Patios must also be separated from the indoor portion of the establishment.
"People who are looking to do an outdoor patio should check with their local health department to review the requirements," Weiss suggested.
Mary Dennis, Director of the Community Health Division of the Erie County Health Department has already consulted with local establishments interested in adding an outdoor patio for smokers.
"I'm more than happy to consult with (businesses) about their plans," Dennis said.
While patrons can legally smoke on outdoor patios, each restaurant or bar will have its own policy.
For additional specifications of the law or more information on the Ohio smoking ban, visit smokefreeohio.org.