Bill exempting bars from smoking ban advances

Jolyn Tenn
Jolyn Tenn
Bill Comerford
Bill Comerford

By Jim Mendoza - bio | email

WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - At Moose McGillycuddy's, ice is cold and liquor flows. But state law bans smoking inside the establishment.

"It's government's obligation to provide a clean, safe, healthy working environment," said Julian Lipsher, public health educator for the State Tobacco Prevention and Education Program.

But even he's concerned over a new challenge to the six-year-old smoking ban. House Bill 2306 amends the law to let bars and nightclubs with liquor licenses allow smoking by posting "Smoking Permitted" signs.

"What the point is is just to decriminalize it," said Jolyn Tenn of the Smokers Alliance. "Not every bar is going to be a smoking bar, that's apparent. But there is a need for it."

A hearing before the House Public Safety and Military Affairs Committee produced a stack of testimony for and against the amendment. As it is now, the law tells bars and clubs that smokers belong outside.

Bar owner Bill Comerford is the spokesman for the Hawaii Bar Owners Association. He said the present law creates public nuisance problems.

"I don't think you want people outside until two o'clock, three o'clock, four o'clock in the morning making noise," he said.

"The original legislative intent was a worker protection bill to create a level playing field, so people would not have to choose between their livelihood and their health," Lipsher said.

Hawaii has one of the toughest anti-smoking bans. But in six years, Honolulu police have ticketed only a handful of people.

Comerford said the change would boost business.

"People come to Hawaii to have a sense of fun," he said. "If they're not going to have fun, they don't come back. If they don't come back, we lose those dollars."

"Business is affected by the ebbs and flows of the economy, not a law that prohibits smoking in enclosed or partially closed establishments," Lipsher said.

The bill also bars any county from restricting smoking in bars and clubs.  It passed with reservations and will go to the House Judiciary Committee.

Copyright 2011 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved