Debate smolders over smoking ban
Smoke-free advocates hail the new law on Kick Butts Day but bar owners are fighting back
The state Capitol hosts the 4th annual Kick Butts Day today, celebrating the passage of the state's landmark smoking ban that went into effect on Nov. 16 for most public spaces.
But a dispute continues to smolder over the law, which the Hawaii Bar Owners Association says continues to hurt its members' bottom line.
Today the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii released results of a QMark Research phone poll of about 500 throug-hout the state in mid-February, which indicated that the majority of people in Hawaii were in favor of the new law.
The QMark survey found 82 percent in favor of the ban, with 91 percent agreeing Hawaii workers should be protected from secondhand smoke and 91 percent agreeing smoke-free restaurants and bars are healthier.
The new law bans smoking from all restaurants and bars, including outdoor patios and lanais, along with enclosed and partially enclosed public places.
Smoking is also prohibited within 20 feet of doorways, windows and ventilation intakes.
"It's the right thing to do," said Lane Muraoka, president and owner of Big City Diner Restaurants. "We're a family restaurant, and (allowing smoking) is not fair to the other patrons who do not smoke. Our employees mean a lot to us, and they're why we are so successful."
The Bar Owners Association, however, which has about 105 members, is waging a battle against the law, which it says has significantly lowered revenue.
The group filed suit against the state in January, and also has backed a bill that would exempt some bars from the smoke-free law.
House Bill 1800 would have authorized a liquor license exempting certain bars from the smoking ban, but it has been deferred in committee.
Jolyn Tenn, co-chair of the Hawaii Smokers Alliance, says her own poll of 167 bars shows the average drop in revenue among them is about 30 percent. Some, she said, reported a 90 percent drop.
Fred Remington, partner of E & J Lounge Operating Co., which operates Kelley O'Neil's and O'Toole's Irish Pub, said business has dropped 12 percent since the law went into effect.
"Smoking goes hand in hand with drinking," said Remington. "People want to relax after a hard day's work, with a cigarette and a cocktail. It should be my choice as a bar owner to allow smoking or not. Some restaurants want to have no smoking, but it should be their choice, not mandated by the government."
He is joined in his battle by the Americans for Freedom of Choice. Both parties say 5,000 individuals have signed a petition supporting a repeal of the smoking ban. Another 3,000 signed a petition supporting HB1800.
The Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii, 2,500 members strong, meanwhile, plans to redirect its efforts at reducing tobacco use among youth.
Today's celebration showcases prevention programs, which the coalition is urging legislators to adequately fund.
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Tale of 2 surveys
A survey commissioned by Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii and the state Department of Health got these responses:
» 82 percent favor new smoke-free law
» 91 percent agree that all workers in Hawaii should be protected from secondhand smoke in the workplace.
» 91 percent agree is it nice to enjoy restaurants and bars without being exposed to cigarrette smoke
» 91 percent agree that restaurants and bars are healthier for everyone when they are smoke-free
Source: QMark Research
Local bars reported these figures for the period Nov. 25, 2006 to Jan. 14, 2007 :
» Ohana Lounge, Kaneohe, down 70 percent
» Club 77, Kalihi, down 50 percent
» Panama Hattie, central, down 30 percent
» Row Bar, downtown, no change
» Pigskin Sports Bar, Kapiolani, down 20percent
» Anna Bannana's, down 20 percent
Source: Jolynn Tenn, co-chair Hawaii Smokers Alliance