I just moved to Michigan from Illinois and at the beginning of the year, Illinois enacted the Smoke Free Illinois Act which is very similar to a law that is being pushed through the Michigan legislature right now. The Smoke Free Illinois Act bans smoking in all public places including bars, restaurants, and casinos.
I know this is controversial. I know this borders on constitutional rights, but let me tell you from first hand experience, this is one of the greatest things to ever come out of the Illinois legislature. I eat out more than most people, but once this law went into effect, it made dining out so much better. You could go to a pub after work or for lunch and not have to worry about your suits soaking up that cloud of smoke. Ther have been some bumps in the road in Illinois. The disfunctional legislature hasn’t been able to agree on how to enforce the law so all tickets wrote in Illinois have been thrown out so far. Communities have had to deal with an abundance of trash on the sidewalks. In my former home of Peoria, the city has stepped up and given the downtown bars cigarette receptacles. In the first three months I was there, not one bar or restaurant shut it’s doors because of the smoking ban. Forty miles to the east, Bloomington/Normal (home of Illinois State University) banned smoking in all public places six months before the rest of the state. Again, not one bar or restaurant closed it’s doors because of the smoking ban. In fact, a few business have said the smoking ban has actually helped there business.
“We’re really starting to see an improvement in lunch business and early evening as they’re doing business activities,” said Sully’s General Manager Curt Johnson. And that’s not all.
Sully’s in downtown Peoria is seeing a lot more families too. Manager Curt Johnson says it’s the Illinois Smoke Free Act that’s bringing different faces to his business. Across the River City, Bingo officials say the act is also scoring new players. “We may have some people that aren’t coming out but on the other side of the equation we have some different faces,” said Roger Boswell of the Knights of Columbus.
With that said, should the State of Michigan ban smoking in bars and restaurants by revising the workplace smoking ban? HB4163 passed the Michigan House of Representatives on Dec. 5 by 10 votes. What this bill does is update the bill by striking the provision that allows exemption for “licensed” establishments. This exemption allowed businesses that were licensed by the Michigan Liquor Control Commission to sell alcohol to continue to allow smoking. The bill has not yet been introduced in the Senate where a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop said he opposed the bill, but would allow a debate on the subject according to the Detroit Free Press.
Of course, the bar and restaurant owners are already on the defensive.
A spokesman for the Michigan Restaurant Association said Tuesday that bars and restaurants should be allowed to set their own policies based on what customers want. More than 5,000 bars and restaurants in Michigan already ban smoking, up from around 2,200 in 1998, Andy Deloney said.
“If it’s what their customers want, their potential customers want, then they’ll do it,” he said
Of course, that’s the same bull I heard in Illinois for a year leading up to ban. No bar is going to ban smoking on it’s own. When one bar does it, but the other 200 in town don’t, the bar may as well just close up shop. When the entire state bans smoking, everyone is on the same playing field.
I, for one, hope this issue gets taken up soon in the Senate and smoking gets snuffed out in public places. I remember the first time I walked into a bar in Lansing and the first thing out of the hostess mouth was “Smoking or Non-Smoking” and I just kind of rolled my eyes. I was finally able to enjoy a night out drinking or a relaxing dinner with my girlfriend and not be assualted by smoke and now I was stepping back into that world.