Pro-smoking campaign gains power against Goliath
In recent months it has been reported that Hawaii visitor arrivals have fallen 7 to 10 percent during the last year alone. This translates into hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue for the state, affecting every one of us in some way.
In December 2006, less than one month after the Hawaii's smoking ban went into effect, we predicted that tourism numbers would dramatically drop, especially from the Japan market. Gov. Linda Lingle and her administration, as well as many lawmakers laughed at us. They chose instead to believe the anti-smoking fanatics and their mantra, "the smoking ban will be good for our economy."
In January 2007, just one month later, the slide began, way before today's convenient excuses of airline closures, fuel charges, mortgage meltdowns, exploding gas prices and the plummeting dollar, just to name a few. Sadly, we are now nearing the 24th month of consecutive decline in Japan numbers. Isn't it odd that Japan outbound tourism is up more than 5 percent? They're going somewhere. Hello! The painting rosy of a bad picture by the Hawaii Tourism Authority is laughable. Do we look that stupid? It's like spray painting a pile of poo with pink paint hoping nobody recognizes what it really is.
Lawmakers will pay for ignoring our efforts this last session. All we asked for was a reasonable compromise, allowing for exemptions for bars that request one (with fees for the exemption license going towards a statewide organ donor awareness campaign). Lawmakers pass unjust laws for one reason ... they do not fear a particular voting block. That will soon change.
Our Web sites now feature "The Red List," showing every lawmaker and how each stood on this issue of freedom of choice. A thumbs-up or a thumbs-down emblem is next to every picture. Smoker voters can now have the last say; they will vote with appreciation or with vengeance. The sleeping smoking giant is finally awakening.
At the beginning of our campaign two years ago, we were the laughingstock of the Capitol. Our opposition brushed us off publicly as nothing but a handful of scofflaws. Today, the Hawaii movement has become a story in USA Today, CNN and the BBC, just to name a few. Every day across the nation, bars are joining the national resistance in "defiant-compliance" against smoking bans. Much mahalos to the more than three dozen lawmakers who have supported our cause. And to our Goliath opposition ... never ever under estimate the power of many little Davids ... poke eye.
David Kawika Crowley and Jolyn Tenn are Oahu residents.