Smoke-Free Law Doesn't Affect Tourism

Marsha Wienert
Marsha Wienert

WAIKIKI (KHNL) - Nearly 6 months ago, Hawaii passed a smoke-free law.

Some people say it's helped them quit smoking, other's believe it's hurt businesses.

But what about tourism?

The number of Japanese people visiting the islands continues to decline.

But some people say the smoke-free law has nothing to do with that.

"Before they're afraid to go to the different places because there's not much information, but now, people have access to internet," said Yoko Sakanoue, Japanese visitor.

The latest statistics show the number of Japanese people visiting Hawaii has declined 7% from a year ago.

The Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii says that has nothing to do with the smoke-free law. In fact, they say the number of Japanese people who smoke has been decreasing for years. The group believes Hawaii laws aren't discouraging the Japanese from visiting. The state doesn't have any data to show there's a connection.

"We do know there's a lot of misinformation in the Japan marketplace in regards to our new rules and regulations," said Marsha Wienert, state tourism liaison.

The state is trying to clarify what the new laws mean and at the same time, promote Hawaii as a destination. But despite the downturn in arrivals, there continues to be many Japanese who enjoy the islands.

"Many people come to Hawaii," said one Japanese tourist.

State officials remain cautiously optimistic about this year's tourism numbers.

They predict, overall, it will increase 2% by the end of the year.