Most Carson City businesses have followed a state smoking ban enacted last year, but health officials are still deciding how to enforce the rules.
Voters passed the Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act last year, banning smoking in most indoor businesses. Casinos, stand-alone bars, tobacco shops and adult entertainment clubs are exempt.
But the city health department, which helps enforce the ban, has gotten few complaints and found few problems during routine inspections, said Dustin Boothe, a department supervisor.
The department checks for "no smoking" signs in businesses that can't allow smoking and looks for ashtrays and smoking paraphernalia. Inspectors check during routine health inspections and respond to written complaints.
Boothe said the majority of the complaints have come from people who say smoke is drifting into restaurants at Doppelgangers, Gold Dust West or the Carson Nugget. The complaints are few, though, and those and other business have tried to work with his department, he said.
The department also hasn't issued any fines. The same is true for Washoe County and the Nevada Health Department, which enforces the smoking ban outside of Carson City, Washoe and Clark counties. A representative with Clark County's health department said it has brought one business to court for violating the ban.
"Ultimately, we don't want to take anyone to court," Boothe said. "But if we do, we want consistent and enforceable regulations."
Finding out what those consistent rules should be however, said Jennifer Sizemore, a representative with Clark County's Southern Nevada Health District, has been "a little difficult."
The four agencies are working together to develop a consistent statewide code to guide how to enforce the ban.
Officials said some of the law needs to be more clear.
For instance, said Teresa Hayes of the Carson City Health Department, how should an ashtray be defined?
People sometimes ash in shot glasses, she said, so is a business violating the ban by providing an ashtray? A business can't be fined simply if a customer is smoking in the building.
People also will ash in beer bottles or sometimes even in their pant cuffs, said Robbin Rose of the Washoe County's Health Department.
Officials also need to define what food service is, Hayes said. The ban allows smoking establishments to sell pre-packaged food such as chips and popcorn, but should food be allowed to be brought in?
A Bully's sports bar location in Sparks, for instance, has food delivered from another Bully's next door.
Several Carson City businesses, however, said the ban hasn't hurt them.
Ronni Hannaman, director of the Carson Chamber of Commerce, said the ban has been a "win-win" for most bars and restaurants.
"I have heard absolutely no complaints on the issue," she said.
The ban has helped Glen Eagle's in North Carson City, said General Manager Vicki Shell. She said nonsmokers love the atmosphere and the business has put heaters outside for smokers.
"It's the best thing," she said. "I am not unhappy whatsoever."
Representatives from Doppelgangers, Gold Dust West and the Carson Nugget also said the ban hasn't hurt business.
But Joseph Wilcock, president of the Nevada Tavern Owners Association, told the Associated Press last week that about 75 of the 300 taverns in the association had to give up food service and that has cut into business.
Some businesses, on the other hand, cut smoking to keep their food service. Golden Gaming Inc., which operates several bars and restaurants in Northern Nevada - including Sparky's in South Carson - has felt a "material impact on all aspects of the business," said Christopher Abraham, vice president of marketing for the company.
He said he expects business to bounce back, but it could take a while.
"It can only get better," he said.
Along with businesses, smokers also have had to make adjustments. Leslie Guagliardo of Carson City said she eats at home more often now because she's not allowed to smoke in any restaurants.
"Businesses have lost my business by having that ban imposed on them," she said.
Del Beach, an employee at the Smoke Shop on North Carson Street, said he doesn't want the ban to get more restrictive, but said it's OK how it is.
He said he tries to be considerate when he is inside and asks people sitting next to him before he lights a cigarette.
"I don't mind stepping outside," he said.
• Contact reporter Dave Frank at email@example.com or 881-1212.