Smoke-Free Law reaches first year
Only one citation has been issued since the ban went into effect
STORY SUMMARY »
A year after Hawaii became the 14th state to implement a ban on smoking in bars and other public gathering places, the state says it has been successful overall, although a group of bar owners continues to wage war against it.
To date, only one citation of $25 has ever been issued to an individual for smoking, in a Chinatown bar. No businesses, so far, have been fined for violating the law, although a number openly do so.
Julian Lipsher, the state tobacco control program coordinator, says he would like to see better enforcement of the law, although he believes most businesses comply with it.
The number of complaints has gone down over the last year, he said, while the volume of calls to the 1-800 quit line has doubled.
The Hawaii Bar Owners Association, which earlier filed a suit challenging the constitutionality of the law, meanwhile, continues to allege that businesses are being hurt because of it.
FULL STORY »
Hawaii's ban on smoking in bars and other public places marks its one-year anniversary today, though a group of bar owners continues to rail against it, some even flouting it openly.
To date, however, only one citation has ever been issued for smoking in a bar. The first and only $25 fine was paid in March by Floreen Mayeda, 71 at the time, in Honolulu District Court for smoking at Club Ke Kai's Lounge in Chinatown.
Though enforcement has been lax, members of the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii herald the new law as a success in protecting the public as well as workplace employees from second-hand smoke. Hawaii is the 14th state to have the law in place.
"We're very happy with the law," said Julian Lipsher, the state's tobacco control program coordinator. "It's provided not only increased protections to non-smokers, it's also increased awareness and opportunity for smokers to quit."
The number of calls to the state's 1-800 Quit Now line has doubled, he said, from about 150 to 300 calls a month. Complaints have also gone down, from 120 last November to four this month.
Rome Stein, a mother of two toddlers, says she now goes to some restaurants she used to avoid because of secondhand smoke, and that she thinks the law is great.
But the Hawaii Smokers Alliance and Hawaii Bar Owners Association continues to speak out against the law they say has caused a drop-off in business.
"The numbers speak for themselves," said Jolyn Tenn, co-chair of the Hawaii Smokers Alliance, citing 16 bars that closed over the last year as well as a significant drop-off in revenue compared to prior years.
It has impacted not only bars, she said, but businesses that rely on tourism.
MIke Heisler, former owner of Rosa's Ice Tee, was among the bars that blamed the smoking ban for the closure of his business after five years in Wahiawa.
"Hawaii, in general, is losing a lot of tourism because of it," said Sandy Miano, owner of Nashville Waikiki and Cabanas at the Ohana Waikiki West hotel.
Miano said both bars have been hit with a 30 percent drop, and that many Canadian and European customers, as well, have also been complaining.
"When tourists come, they want to be able to enjoy themselves," she said. "To take away a legal substance makes very little sense to me."
The bar owners' association went so far as to file a lawsuit earlier this year, challenging the law as unconstitutional, but it was dismissed. Tenn said the group may still consider legal action down the line, and vows to fight the law every step of the way.
"The bottom line is those people who are allowing smoking in their bars should be afforded the opportunity to make their own choice," Tenn said. "We're just saying places should be afforded the right to service the clients they want to serve."
Some bars, the group advocates, should be allowed to apply for a different category of license from the Liquor Commission in order to be a smoking bar.
The state, on the other hand, maintains that there has been minimal economic impact due to the smoke-free law.
The law requires signage, some of which the state provides, but no significant capital improvements or the purchase of large equipment, said Lipsher.
An economic impact statement has been drafted, he said, and will eventually go to the small business regulatory review board. Administrative rules should be in place within a year, he said.
Lipsher said enforcement, however, could be stricter, especially for the bars that are openly violating the law. He calls them a small minority.
To help inform visitors about the law, Lipsher said the state is developing a pocket card in several different languages, including Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Tagalog and Chuukese, informing them that smoking is not allowed at the airport -- from plane to curb -- except in designated areas.
"We have had overall, tremendous acceptance and compliance across the state," said Lipsher. "Hopefully, we don't have to fine anyone, but if it's necessary, then it's necessary."