State study backs law restricting smoking
A controversial law that placed restrictions on smoking did not hurt Hawaii's economy in the first year, according to a report commissioned by the state Department of Health.
Critics of the law were not convinced.
The report, released yesterday, was prepared by Andrew Hyland and Cheryl Higbee of the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, N.Y.
"We anticipated that, like other states where similar laws have been enacted, there would be no negative economic impact," said Hawaii Health Director Chiyome L. Fukino. "These findings have helped to confirm our original assumptions. Moving forward, the Department of Health will continue to assess visitor industry data to track changes."
Hawaii's visitor industry gained 212 more employees and 1,591 more jobs in the food and beverage sector since the law went into effect, the report said. Also, overall monthly visitor spending in Hawaii and monthly visitor spending by visitors from Japan has been comparable, the report said.
The Hawaii Smokers Alliance and other similar interest groups criticized the findings in the latest report, which they said runs counter to earlier views expressed by Hawaii's visitor industry and fails to take into account the impact on liquor sales.
While report authors said that they considered using data from the Honolulu Liquor Commission, they could not because it did not fall within the time period needed to evaluate the effect of the law.
"This is not a valid impact study, it doesn't even address declining liquor sales. That industry has lost millions," said Jolyn Tenn, president of Hawaii Smokers Alliance, a pro-smoking group in Hawaii.
Since Hawaii adopted a more restrictive law on smoking in late 2006, travel industry professionals and tourists have blamed the restrictions in part for the depressed Japan visitor market.
Last year, state tourism officials made several trips to Japan and funded a heavily criticized ashtray campaign, called Smoking with Aloha, to try and reverse the trend.
"If they don't think that it has been a problem, why did they spend our money?" Tenn said.