Thursday, February 21, 2002

City & County of Honolulu

Eatery smoking ban
starts July 1

The Council votes 7-2
in favor of the restrictions

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

Smokers take heed: You won't be able to light up in most indoor restaurants on Oahu starting July 1.

That's because after three failed attempts in recent years, the Honolulu City Council voted 7-2 yesterday to approve a restaurant smoking ban.

John DeSoto and Rene Mansho were the only dissidents after Romy Cachola, who has consistently sided in opposition to the bill, switched his vote at the last minute.

Anti-tobacco advocates hailed the measure as a significant piece of workplace safety reform, leaving bars and nightclubs as the only indoor work areas where employees will be exposed to secondhand smoke.

Opponents charged that the bill will discourage people, particularly visitors, from going to restaurants and further contribute to Hawaii's economic tailspin.

Under the new bill:

>> Smoking in most indoor restaurants will be prohibited beginning July 1. Smoking will be permitted in the "separate bar area" of restaurants through June 30, 2003.

>> Smoking in outdoor restaurants and the "separate open air area" of restaurants would be allowed if separated completely by a wall reaching from floor to ceiling or 10 feet of space.

>> Smoking would still be permitted in stand-alone bars, provided no more than one-third of their gross income is derived from food sales.

Councilwoman Rene Mansho attempted to soften the measure through a floor draft that would have allowed smoking in restaurant bars after 10 p.m. and the indoors of restaurants with separate exhaust ventilation or fast air circulation systems. That amendment failed.

Patrick McCain, president of the Hawaii Restaurant Association, questioned how the law will be enforced.

He said "no smoking" signs at the state Legislature are regularly ignored.

The association has consistently opposed the bill on the grounds that it would discourage smokers from frequenting restaurants.

But state Health Director Bruce Anderson said "there is not a shred of evidence" to suggest that restaurant smoking bans in other parts of the country have led to decreased business.

Anderson noted that the state spends $328 million annually in health-care costs.

It was a bittersweet day for Councilman Jon Yoshimura. Long an opponent of smoking legislation based on economic worries, Yoshimura was praised by supporters of the bill for changing his mind on the issue, thereby becoming the fifth and deciding vote.

Ironically, he lost the Council chairman's seat yesterday in a reorganization led by DeSoto.

Mayor Jeremy Harris will sign the bill, according to his spokeswoman Carol Costa.

When the mayor vetoed a previous version of the bill in 1995, he did so with assurances from the private sector that they would regulate themselves, instead of having a government-imposed ban, Costa said.

"They have not done that and he has decided that the time is now appropriate to move forward with a smoking ban," Costa said.

City & County of Honolulu

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