Kauai Council passesLIHUE >> The Kauai County Council, which appeared poised two weeks ago to pass the toughest anti-smoking ordinance in the state, approved a watered-down version of the bill last night.
By Anthony Sommer
The deeply divided Council voted 4-3 to adopt the limitations on smoking in restaurants passed by Honolulu in July: No smoking indoors, with smoking permitted in outdoor areas. The separation between the two needs to be 10 feet.
In addition, the Council passed an exemption not found in the Oahu and Maui restaurant smoking-ban laws. Businesses that have a bar and a restaurant with limited serving hours, primarily golf course clubhouses, must ban smoking while meals are being offered, according to the Kauai Council bill. But during hours when the kitchen is closed, customers may smoke in the building.
Two weeks ago, the Council appeared to have the votes to copy the Maui ordinance prohibiting smoking in all areas of all restaurants.
But the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Hawaii stalled the process by attempting to widen the ban to all small businesses. State law exempts businesses with five employees or less from a smoking ban, but the same law also allows County Councils to pass total smoking bans in those businesses.
At the same time, the restaurant industry, which had ignored the bill since it was introduced in November 2001, began to organize opposition.
The exemption allowing smoking in outdoor areas was introduced yesterday by Councilmen Kaipo Asing and Daryl Kaneshiro, both lifelong nonsmokers.
"My personal view is, I don't want any smoking at all -- zero," said Asing. "But I'm not here to represent my personal views. I'm here to represent and protect the view of the entire community."
Asing said he visited numerous restaurants on Kauai and decided a smoking ban would put some out of business.
"I said to myself, 'Some of these people are going under. They won't make it because it (the original complete ban) is too restrictive.'"
Even the watered-down version that was passed brought grumbling from some restaurant owners who threatened to lobby Mayor Maryanne Kusaka to veto the bill. The bill now goes to the mayor, who has expressed no opinion on the issue.
Council Chairman Ron Kouchi, who is running for mayor and who wanted stronger restrictions than the ones the Council passed, cautioned the restaurants from seeking a veto.
Kouchi said that although he was disappointed in the final version of the bill, it does impose new smoking restrictions.
"The last time this issue came up, 15 years ago, it was dead on arrival," Kouchi said. "There have been significant strides in 15 years."
The Big Island County Council is also considering a restaurant smoking ban.
County of Kauai
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