Limit smoking ban to enclosed bars
Defiant bar owners are asking the Legislature to allow exemptions from the new smoking ban on their premises.
HAWAII became part of a growing trend last year with a ban on smoking in all bars and restaurants. Some bar owners are defying the prohibition and calling for exemptions, but secondhand smoke has been shown to present a serious health hazard in enclosed areas. The ban inside bars should stand. However, smoking outside bars and in bars' open-air sections should be permitted.
Hawaii is among 13 states and numerous cities and counties that ban smoking in bars. Smoking bans inside bars have been imposed in Europe, beginning with Ireland in 2004 and followed by Norway, Malta, Italy and Spain, to be joined in July by England and Australia.
Ireland's Office of Tobacco Control cites figures from the hospitality industry showing no economic harm from its smoking bans in pubs. The success might be due to bar owners providing open-air smoking sections.
Cognizant of that, many bar owners in England and Australia are preparing for similar bans. "I've been to Dublin and seen nonsmokers sitting outside with smokers because the areas are so nice," liquor licensee Martyn Goulding told the Yorkshire Evening Post. "That's what we want to do here."
Hawaii's law does not reward such innovation because outside areas -- even nonbar property within 20 feet of a bar's entrances, exits, windows and ventilation intakes -- are off limits to smoking. Public health concerns that necessitate indoor smoking bans should not apply in the open air. It is unreasonable to expect Hawaii bar owners to police outside areas for violators.
In areas where Irish bar owners have been able to create beer gardens or shelters to comply with indoor smoking bans, those in urban areas where space is limited have encountered difficulty. That might be unavoidable, and a lawsuit filed by the Hawaii Bar Owners Association challenging the law as unconstitutional is not likely to improve their plight.
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