Saturday, February 9, 2002

Most favor smoke
ban in eateries

A Bulletin-KITV poll shows
residents favor the ban almost 2-to-1

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

Hawaii residents favor a complete restaurant smoking ban by nearly 2-to-1, according to a new statewide poll conducted for the Star-Bulletin and KITV-4 News.

Art Nearly half the respondents -- 49 percent -- said they felt strongly that there should be an all-out ban.

The Honolulu City Council meets Feb. 20 to hold a final vote on a measure that would prohibit tobacco smoking in all indoor restaurants on Oahu. The measure is expected to be approved.

The responses by those on the neighbor islands mirrored those on Oahu.

The poll was conducted from Jan. 26 to Feb. 3 by Honolulu-based Market Trends Pacific Inc.

"I think it supports what we've been saying all along, that most people think restaurants should be nonsmoking," said Clifford Chang, executive director of the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii.

Julian Lipsher, director of the state Department of Health's Tobacco Prevention and Education Project, said the poll's numbers are similar to those in the preliminary findings of a Health Department survey in November.

Patrick McCain, president of the Hawaii Restaurant Association, said he was not surprised by the poll results since the Health Department is waging an expensive advertising campaign pushing a ban.

The results, he said, "tell me that the Department of Health got their money's worth from their television commercials."

McCain said those who favor the no-smoking bill are not considering the adverse impacts on restaurants.

"The government needs to get off the private sector's back rather than try to make it more difficult," he said.

Poll results show that most respondents who oppose a restaurant smoking ban actually are more worried about the possible infringement on the rights of smokers and restaurant owners rather than the impacts on the state economy.

Council Public Safety Chairman John Henry Felix said it is a "red herring" for McCain's organization to raise the fear of economic woe as a reason to oppose a ban since studies on the mainland have shown there has been little correlation.

Lipsher said the restaurant association is "relying on perception rather than fact." But he agreed with McCain that the Health Department's campaign, showing restaurant workers seeking a smoke-free environment, has been effective.

"It's good to know the vast majority of people understand and appreciate that exposure to secondhand smoke is a serious health risk to nonsmokers," Lipsher said.

Under the Council measure, smoking in most indoor restaurants would be barred beginning July 1. Smoking in outdoor restaurants and "the separate open-air area" of restaurants would be allowed under strict criteria.

Smoking in the separate bar areas of restaurants would be allowed only through June 30, 2003.

Five current Council members are in favor of the bill, which means Councilwoman-elect Ann Kobayashi's vote could be critical.

A sixth vote on the nine-member Council would make the bill veto-proof from Mayor Jeremy Harris.

The mayor vetoed a previous smoking restaurant bill but has said he wants some sort of legislation enacted before his expected resignation in July.

The County Councils on Maui and Kauai are mulling restaurant smoking bans, while on the Big Island the Hawaii County Council is taking a wait-and-see stance.


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