Restaurant Patrons Celebrate Smoking Ban Anniversary

Lisa Johnstone
Lisa Johnstone
Keoni Gaines
Keoni Gaines
Dr. Paul Ho
Dr. Paul Ho

HONOLULU (KHNL) --  More people die of lung cancer than any other type of cancer, and cigarette smoking is the number one contributing factor, according to the U.S. Surgeon General.

That's one of the major reasons why Hawaii passed a smoke-free law in all public places one year ago. The actual anniversary is Friday, but Thursday night, people were celebrating at Honolulu bars and restaurants.

Folks we talked to say it's nice to go out with family and friends, and not worry about inhaling second-hand smoke.

Restaurant patrons in downtown Honolulu celebrate a year of enjoying a smoke-free dining experience.

"Well, before you would go to a bar or a restaurant, and you'd come home and you would just reek," said Lisa Johnstone, a patron at Indigo restaurant.  "Your hair would stink. Your clothes would stink, and it was just awful."

A law that went into effect almost a year ago changed all that.

"But now, you don't feel like you have this like layer of soot or whatever on you," said Johnstone.

Downtown restaurants partnered with health organizations to celebrate this milestone.  Hawaii became the 14th state to pass a smoke-free law.  Experts say even the most minimal exposure to second-hand smoke can be dangerous.

"Clinical data have shown that even 30 minutes of exposure, you start to have physiologic changes in your coronary arteries to be going toward a situation of a heart attack," said Dr. Paul Ho, an interventional cardiologist with Kaiser Permanente.

Bars like this were filled with smoke a year ago.

"It's much better now. The atmosphere is better," said Keoni Gaines, another patron at Indigo.  "You know, you don't smell like smoke when you leave the bar."

It's also made it more pleasant for those who work here.

"Definitely the smoke-free environment is a big improvement as far as my working conditions," said Eddie Trongkamsataya, a bartender at the Green Room at Indigo.

So many here and throughout the island celebrate a milestone.

"I should have a say in what's around me, and not having to breathe in someone else's smoke," said Johnstone.  "So it's nice to have a choice in how I live my life in that respect."

The American Lung Society says even rock stars have jumped on the smoke-free bandwagon.  They're planning a concert on January 12, 2008.  They're still working out the details.