May 12, 2008
Industry lobbyists take aim at smoking ban
The workplace smoking ban, including bars and restaurants, is expected to be taken up in the House this week, and the usual suspects are pulling out all the stops to try and kill it.
The lobbyist for the Michigan Restaurant Association is quoted in subscription only MIRS as saying “he was aware there was some talk in the Senate but he had no idea they would go so far as to pass a total ban.” He must not be a very good lobbyist because it was pretty clear a vote was coming a few days before the vote was going to take place. The Michigan Distributors and Vendors Association also denounced the bill, with their lobbyist using the age old argument that the Senate is “imposing big government on the free marketplace.” That statement is ignoring, of course, that the government regulates other public health issues in bars and restaurants.
Anyone who has ever read a restaurant inspection report from their local health department knows that is true, and establishments have been cited for things like improper hair restraints, food containers improperly labeled and improper lighting. There are 44 possible violations that are considered critical, and it seems ridiculous that something as deadly as second hand smoke should not be regulated. There is no amount of safe secondhand smoke.
Last week the Senate approved House Bill 4163 with a bipartisan vote of 25-12 with nine Republicans voting for the bill, including some of the more conservative Senators, including Senators Cameron Brown, Nancy Cassis, John Pappageorge and Bruce Patterson. The Senate substitute was a tougher version because it banned smoking in casinos where the House version did not.
Last December, the Democratic-controlled House approved the bill by a close vote of 56-46. The bill was referred to the Republican-controlled Senate where Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop bottled it up and vowed he would not even allow it a committee hearing. But public pressure and a report by a leading Lansing public policy and lobbying firm that said there is no economic loss when bars goes smoke free and it is a public health hazard changed his mind and he allowed a vote.
The House has to concur with the Senate version, but it remains to be seen if the new evidence in the new report will increase the 10-vote margin, or if the intense lobbying effort of the MRA backed up with tobacco money will cut into the vote margin or even defeat it. They will be joined by the Detroit casinos in that lobbying effort under the mistaken belief that they will lose business to the Native American run casinos where the state does not have jurisdiction. That ignores the report that says a smoking ban does not have an effect on business. It also ignores the fact that just 21 percent of the state’s population smokes.
Why we are so worried about such a small majority I have no idea. It’s been 12 years since I bought a pack of cigarettes, but they were like $5 a pack then. If they are spending that much on smokes what makes people think they have more money to spend on other things than the non-smokers?
The Detroit News is currently running a pole on the ban, and so far 80 percent support the smoking ban. What more proof do lawmakers need to vote for the ban? I suggest you contact your representative and tell them to vote for the ban.