Bill To Exempt Bars From Smoking Ban Advances

Published On: Feb 16 2012 05:02:01 AM HST   Updated On: Feb 17 2012 07:00:28 AM HST

State health officials worry a bill to exempt bars from anti-smoking regulations will weaken Hawaii?s 6-year-old smoking ban,

The Kailua Palace sports bar changed hands about a year before the smoking ban kicked in.

Owner Roy Fujisue said he saw how the ban drove his customers away.

?We were down to 20 cases a week, and now we are back up to 70-80 cases," Fijisue said.

That's because Fujisue allows his patrons to light up, even though signs that say smoking isn?t allowed.

"We look the other way," Fujisue said.

The Kauilua business owner said he has one nonsmoking employee, and on the nights she works, patrons are asked not to smoke indoors.

The Hawaii Smoking Alliance maintains the smoking issue boils down to this:

"I advocate for adults to make those choices for themselves," said Joleyn Tenn, who is with the Hawaii Smokers Alliance.

Proponents maintain that requiring smokers to be 20 feet from a doorway creates problems with neighbors.

A member of the Ala Moana neighborhood board, said complaints are on the rise.

"So, a lot of times you have large numbers outside, and there's fighting and noise and you get a lot of complaints, and this bothers the close-by residents," said Michael Zehner.

?We are not making the smoking ban go away, The smoking ban still exists. We are just trying to make exemptions, so that during these hours when we have these problems, we can put the people back inside," said Bill Comerford of the Hawaii Bar Owners Association.

State health officials maintain it is all about second-hand smoke which the surgeon general has deemed to be a hazard.

"It is clearly a health issue, In addition, this bill has a dangerous provision that would prevent counties to enact stronger legislation," said Julian Lipsher of the state's Tobacco Education and Prevention program. Lawmakers on the House business committee voted to pass the bill out with some reservations.

"The fact is we have the congresswoman and the governor who are trying to get more visitors from Asia and this is one of the concerns they have raised, and so that?s why we are limiting it to Oahu to continue that conversation," Rep. said Angus McKelvey, the chairman of the House Economic Revitalization and Business Committee.

The state Health Department said there have only been four citations issued by Honolulu Police since the ban went into effect. There was one citation issued in 2007, and three were issued in 2011.


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