New isle smoking ban goes to full House and Senate for vote
House-Senate conferees have agreed on a wide-ranging smoking ban intended to protect Hawaii residents from secondhand smoke and reduce diseases and deaths.
Scope of ban covers public areas
Leaders of the Senate and House Health Committees agreed yesterday on a bill that would ban smoking in public places and places of employment, including all bars, auditoriums, employee lounges and from curb to cabin at Hawaii's airports. One workplace exception: prisons.
Source: Associated Press
The bill, still pending final votes by the full House and Senate, would prohibit smoking in state- and county-owned facilities, in workplaces and in enclosed or partially enclosed places open to the public.
The ban would include such places as bars and nightclubs, airports, public transportation facilities and vehicles, and areas available to the public such as restrooms, lobbies and reception areas. Common areas open to the public in offices, banks, laundromats, hotels, condominiums and other buildings also are covered.
The bill is intended to provide "a consistent level of basic protection" from secondhand smoke across the state.
Many smokers at Restaurant Row last night said they considered the bill a violation of their rights.
"When I drink a beer, I need my cigarettes," said Suzy DelaCruz, 27, as she enjoyed both at an outdoor bar. "It's not fair you can't smoke in restaurants and bars."
"I think it's total garbage," said Tony Williams, 43, outside Ocean Club. "I understand both sides, but I think smokers should have the option."
"Public transportation and airports, OK. Bars and nightclubs, I don't think so," said Abhijit Bandyopadhyay, 34, while taking a smoke break outside an office building. "There should be places to smoke."
But several smokers at Restaurant Row favored such a ban.
"When I'm not smoking, I'm extremely offended by (secondhand smoke)," said Boris Klimovitsky, 28, who sat at an open-air bar with a pack of cigarettes on the table. "It re-creates the addiction."
Krystal Parages, 24, said while smoking, "I think it's good. I'm trying to quit. I wish I never started smoking. It forces smokers to stop smoking, which is better for your health and everyone else's, too."
Senate Health Chairwoman Rosalyn Baker (D, Kapalua-Kaanapali-Lahaina-Maalaea-Kihei-Makena) said support for Senate Bill 3262, SD1, HD1, as it moved through the two chambers indicates it will pass and go to the governor.
Legislators are also trying a second tactic: raising the state tax on cigarettes.
The House and Senate are still working on the bill's details. The Senate is seeking a 2-cent boost to the tax in 2007, while the House wants a 2.5-cent increase. Legislators also still need to settle their difference over which health program would receive the extra money, estimated at $12 million for a single-cent raise.
Baker said that across the country, tax increases on cigarettes have been linked to fewer young people picking up the smoking habit.
She said the smoking-ban measure has broad community and bipartisan support to protect the public from secondhand smoke, which is "as deadly as smoking."
If enacted, it would take effect on Nov. 16, the day of the Great American Smokeout, when organizations focus on getting people to quit smoking, Baker said.
"This is a major advance for the health of our people," said Rep. Dennis Arakaki (D, Alewa Heights-Kalihi Valley-Fort Shafter), House Health Committee chairman.
The bill has been a priority for many years for the Health Committee, Arakaki said. "Hopefully, this will get the message across to parents and caregivers that it is not good to smoke in homes where children are."
Health care, child care and adult day care facilities and any home with a public business are covered by the bill's restrictions.
Rep. Joshua Green (D, North Kona-Keauhou-Kailua-Kona-Honokohau), an emergency room doctor, said the bill is "a major victory" for islanders' health.
More than 1,000 people die every year in Hawaii because of smoking, "one way or another," he said. "Tobacco is going to send people into the hospital or morgue."
Suzaynn Schick, a University of California-San Francisco cell biologist, told legislators last year that secondhand smoke is more toxic to nonsmokers than inhaled smoke is to a smoker. Exposure to secondhand smoke causes lung cancer, heart and respiratory disease, and stroke in healthy smokers.
"The industry has known for 20 years or more of dangers of smoke," said Don Weisman, with the American Heart Association. "How can they argue against their own research?"
Smoking and secondhand smoke are leading preventable causes of disease and death, said Weisman, chairman of the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Hawaii's policy committee.
"No one is happier than me today to see this pass and go to floor votes," he added, noting he has been working 17 years to obtain such legislation.
Baker said the coalition, with 140 members, has been the driving force behind the legislation. The American Lung, Heart and Cancer associations and a county coalition also have been strong supporters, she said.
Deborah Zysman, the coalition's executive director, also said such a bill "has been many years in the making. ... I know it will change Hawaii for the better."
She said Hawaii is one of 11 states with such sweeping restrictions on smoking.
Businesses also recognize the major impact smoking has on rising health care costs, Weisman said.
Rep. Kirk Caldwell (D, Manoa-Manoa Valley-University), chairman of the Labor and Public Employment Committee, said he hopes to consider legislation next year banning smoking at beaches and parks, which some counties in California have done, he said. He introduced such a measure last year which did not pass. He did not reintroduce it this year because he did not want to jeopardize the bill to protect people from secondhand smoking, he said.
Correctional facilities are exempt from the legislation, at their request, but Maui Community Correctional Center's administrator is making it smoke-free, Baker said. Kauai's CCC already is smoke-free.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.