Smoking ban gathers support
A bill would prohibit smoking in enclosed public areas and workplaces statewide
Three years ago, Makawao restaurant co-owner Stephen Burgelin opposed a smoke-free ordinance on Maui because he thought it would adversely affect business.
But Burgelin's fears were allayed as the opposite happened: His restaurant's annual revenue increased by 10 to 15 percent in the last couple of years.
Burgelin and others testified before the state Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday in support of Senate Bill 3262, which would prohibit tobacco smoke in all enclosed or partially enclosed public places and workplaces statewide.
The bill also prohibits smoking 20 feet from entryways of enclosed public places and workplaces.
About 41 percent of Hawaii residents still work in an environment where smoking is allowed, according to the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Hawaii.
The bill would provide "comprehensive protections from secondhand smoke for all who live, work and visit Hawaii, and it will have also have a dramatic, positive impact on public health," said Deborah Zysman, director of the coalition.
Burgelin said he is aware that many bar owners are worried of a drop in revenue if the bill is passed. "My experience has been the opposite," he said.
A law would increase the number of no-smoking places, supplementing ordinances in the four counties that for the most part forbid smoking in restaurants and some other locations.
Members of the Judiciary Committee are scheduled to make a decision at 9 a.m. tomorrow on whether to pass the bill to the Senate floor for a vote.
Many showed support, from a teenager in Maui who enjoys playing pool at a Kahului billiards establishment but is bothered by the smoke lingering in the air to a mother whose daughter suffers from asthma and has attacks often triggered by secondhand smoke.
"I know the effects it can do to your body." said Jon MacDougall, 18, of Makawao.
MacDougall said the bill, if passed, would benefit Maui because of the limited enclosed public establishments on the island that residents can go to, hampering nonsmokers.
Some residents whose grandparent died from illnesses relating to smoking or secondhand smoke also supported the bill, as well as various organizations and hospitals such as Castle Medical Center, Kalihi-Palama Health Center and Mother's Care for Tomorrow's Children.
More than 1,100 deaths in Hawaii annually are attributed to tobacco use, according to advocates.