Wednesday, November 14, 2001

City & County of Honolulu

Council considers
smoking bill again

The plan would restrict puffing
to outside areas of restaurants

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

Four City Council members are reigniting the debate over restaurant smoking with a new bill that would allow cigarettes to be lit up only in the outdoor areas of eateries.

Council Chairman Jon Yoshimura, who has consistently voted against a restaurant smoking ban, said he may consider voting for the latest proposal.

The new bill comes less than a week after a restaurant smoking ban was snuffed out by a 5-4 vote of the Council. The new legislation was introduced by members John Henry Felix, Duke Bainum, Steve Holmes and Gary Okino, the same four Council members who voted for the previous measure.

Felix said the other key difference from the last bill is that this one won't go into effect until six months after its enactment to allow time for restaurants to adjust. The defeated measure, opposed by the Hawaii Restaurant Association and others in the restaurant industry, would have gone into effect immediately.

"By that time, we can put aside fears of a negative economic impact and move on," Felix said.

A restaurant's "outside area," under the new bill, would be defined as "a restaurant's premises that is outside the walls of a building and open on at least three sides."

"I think it's very appropriate to do it now that there is a heightened awareness on the part of the public," Felix said, noting that even Mayor Jeremy Harris has in recent days expressed a willingness to look at some kind of compromise legislation.

It was Harris who vetoed a Council smoking bill in 1995 on the grounds that it would have had negative business repercussions. The mayor could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Felix said he also is banking that whoever is elected to replace Councilman Andy Mirikitani will support smoking restrictions. Mirikitani previously supported restaurant smoking curbs but last week rejected such legislation on economic grounds.

He will be sentenced in federal court on Dec. 4 for theft and extortion and removed from office, creating a vacant seat.

Yoshimura said he believes enacting some kind of restaurant smoking legislation is a priority for the Council, where only two of nine current members will be eligible for re-election beyond 2002.

"I've always felt that we've needed to increase the number of nonsmoking seats in restaurants," Yoshimura said. "My concern is just how to do it."

Yoshimura said he wants to ensure that any kind of regulation is "palatable" to the restaurant industry. To that end, he said, he has been working on a separate compromise bill that would restrict smoking in restaurants, although he declined to provide specifics.

Felix said the bill introduced yesterday should be viewed as a workers' protection bill.

"We protect workers in every other work environment; why should we exclude restaurant workers?" Felix said. "They deserve equal protection and should not be discriminated against."

City & County of Honolulu

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