Counties, bars still up in arms over smoking ban

The smoking ban passed by the Michigan legislature goes into effect in less than a month. And, typically, the state, its agencies and the counties still have no idea how they will enforce it. [The Detroit News].

"What we have to do is figure out some details to make sure people are in compliance, and that we have a law people can follow," said state Department of Community Health spokesman James McCurtis. The biggest aspect of the law facing state health officials is determining who will police establishments to ensure patrons don’t get away with sneaking a smoke.

"Most likely it will be the local health departments (enforcing the ban). It will fall into restaurant inspections (and) it will be complaint based," McCurtis said.

"It’s not quite concrete, but I guarantee it will be concrete by May 1," he added. "I’m sure some (local health departments) may be unhappy."

Oakland County basically says it won’t do anything if it receives a complaint …

Kathy Forzley, manager of the Oakland County Health Division, said if the county hears a business isn’t conforming, "Complaints will be referred back to the state."

… while Wayne and Macomb counties say they will enforce it as part of its restaurant inspections.

Michigan is the 38th state to pass such a ban, so its not as if we’re blazing any new trails, so to speak. I don’t know. Maybe the state should see how, say, New York, enforces its smoking ban, which has been in place since 2003.

The restaurant associations are upset, naturally, claiming that the ban will kill their business. But this hasn’t happened in the states that have banned smoking. In fact, their business improved. [Cleveland Plain Dealer]

Cities and states that have banned smoking didn’t suffer a dramatic or permanent falloff in business at bars and restaurants, as owners had feared.

When Ohio adopted its ban in 2006, "there was a lot of concern that [bar and restaurant owners] would lose business, but none of our members have said that the ban has impacted them negatively," said Jarrod Claybaugh of the Ohio Restaurant Association.

Instead, the smoking cessation has encouraged nonsmokers, once fearful of smoke’s effect on their health and dry-cleaning budgets, to enjoy nightlife and visit bars and restaurants more often, he said.

Anecdotal evidence, you say? Consider this:

In Chicago, which banned smoking in 2005, the restaurant business is strong, said Fabian Martinez, a manager at Giordano’s pizzeria.

"We haven’t noticed any change," Martinez said. "I think we did [customers] a good service and a good thing."

In Nebraska, which adopted its smoking ban last summer, restaurants and bars with outdoor patios, where smoking is allowed, have fared well, said Molly Goodman, manager of Sullivan’s Steakhouse in Omaha.

Montana banned smoking in restaurants and workplaces in 2005 and in bars last year. While bowling alleys and casino bars suffered, the ban didn’t have the harsh repercussions business owners had feared, said Lynn Fiegel, manager of the Windbag Saloon and Grill in Helena.

New York City, among the first municipalities to prohibit smoking in 2003, is thriving as a bona fide smoke-free zone.

"People have become accustomed and expect to not experience secondhand smoke," said Beth Kilgore, spokeswoman for the city’s Bureau of Tobacco Control, a division of the city Health Department. "It has become a nonissue to bars and restaurants."

Instead, business is up at New York’s eating establishments. The number of liquor licenses increased 11 percent, bar and restaurant employment rose 18 percent, and tax receipts are up 66 percent since the ban went into effect, Kilgore said.

But there is one outlier:

But Rick Sampson, president and chief executive officer of the New York State Restaurant Association, remembered that some businesses lost up to a quarter of their sales during the first few months of the ban.

"Unfortunately, [smokers] didn’t blame the government for telling them they couldn’t smoke and they blamed the individual bars and restaurants instead," Sampson said. "They flexed their muscle by not coming back."


Smokers began returning to their favorite spots four or five months later, Sampson said, and today the ban is a "nonissue." Owners say their bars and restaurants are easier to clean and manage, and employees report feeling healthier, he added.

The point is that the whining and complaining is not worth the time. The empirical evidence is in from several states – including neighboring states, which opponents of progress often like to use as a reason why change won’t work (“Sure, it works in hippie communes like New York and California, but it won’t sell in Middle America!”) – and it shows that smoking bans not only won’t hurt business in restaurants and bars, but in the long run, will improve it.

5 thoughts on “Counties, bars still up in arms over smoking ban

  1. DON’T FORGET THE BIGGEST EXEMPTIONIN OHIO, ALL ABOUT HEALTH? Why are nursing homes allowed designated smoking areas in Ohio? Yea people recovering from stroke, heart attacks, surgery, you name it but according to the AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY/SMOKE FREE OHIO thats ok? I guess perhaps the ACS want to keep grabbing at the estates they can steal from the elderly! But the way according to the law written by the ACS/Smoke Free Ohio, no health casre provider will be required to attend to a patient while they are in a designated smoking area! Permission given to a nurse or aid to watch a person die? Dang and these people lobbied for Obamas health care makes you wonder don’t it?
    Oh I take it now a senior citizen basicly imprisoned in a nursing home has been banned from enjoying one of most smallest pleasures in life!

  2. Protecting workers? This just in MONTCOAL, W.Va. — Six miners were killed and at least 21 unaccounted for Monday in an explosion at an underground coal mine, the state mining director said.
    Now no one forces them to work in a mine just like a waitress in a restaurant or bar that allows smoking.
    As a matter of fact you can even tour coal mines, oops we going to ban that? People have been killed at auto racing, fairs, amusement rides, air shows even just commuting to work.
    The ban is a farce and just goes to show even health official can be bought with enough money!

  3. Here in Chicago, after over two years, the ban is fading into forgotten history in many neighborhood bars. As the hoopla and fanfare quickly wore off. they patiently waited for all these new customers during the first winter, while losing most of their regulars. Occasionally one person would travel through the area and claim how wonderful the ban was, have one beer, and never to be seen again. During the next summer, some of the regulars returned and enjoyed loitering outside, which was previously not allowed. That law must have been repealed for the ban. With the approaching of the second winter, the owners had to decide to allow smoking, or close. Risking a few fines was a lot better than just laying down to die. The only complaints are from the neighbors of the bars that comply, which will be quickly seen in Detroit and other areas where real crime is an issue.

  4. All the special interest groups including big Pharm
    are behind all smoking bans in this country.
    It is not about health and it never was about health

    Their motive??
    Quarantine/isolate the smoker.
    De-normalize smoking
    Big Pharm to peddle their nicotine products
    Owners have the right to use or permit a legal product on ‘privare’ property.

    Isn’t this what America is all about??

  5. As the Detroit New article notes, most other states, including Nebraska, permit smoking on bar/restaurant patios.

    The fact Michigan will not is going to create some enforcement problems. Smokers and many nonsmokers will not undertand why it’s OK to smoke just outside the front door but the back patio has to be nonsmoking.

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