Sep 11, 2008

Supporters of indoor smoking ban rally to get the ban done

LANSING -- Approval of the much anticipated indoor smoking ban, including bars and restaurants, could come as early as next week. Speaker of the House Andy Dillon, D-Redford, has indicated he will allow the full House to vote on House Bill 4163, sent over from the Senate in May.

Although there has been no action on the two bills banning smoking in the Legislature since the spring, groups like The Campaign for Smoke free Air and private citizens have been keeping the pressure on and the spotlight on the issue by writing and calling lawmakers.

In fact, the coalition has a rally planned in Lansing on Tuesday, September 16 to exert even more pressure on the House to take up HB 4163.

The rally will begin at 12:30 p.m. on the first floor rotunda of the Capitol, and among the speakers will be Sen. Ray Basham, who first sponsored the legislation banning smoking more than a decade ago. Although it is not required and everyone is welcome, they are asking people to RSVP at

As many people are aware, the House first approved HB 4163 way back in December, and it excluded casinos, tobacco retailers, bingo halls, horse racing tracks and so-called "cigar bars" from the ban. The Senate approved the bill in May, but it was a clean bill that included no exceptions or carve outs.

However, when it was sent back to the House, many Detroit-area legislators balked, fearing the Detroit casinos would lose business and then lose jobs. They passed HB 5074 a few weeks later that had exceptions for non-Native American casinos, bingo-halls and so-called “cigar bars.”

Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, only permitted a vote on 4163 after extensive pressure from Michigan residents, and the bill only received support because it included a total ban, thereby leveling the playing field for all bars and restaurants. He will not allow a vote on HB 5074, and it appears unlikely he would allow a second vote on HB 4163 if it were returned to the Senate with amendments that included exceptions or carve outs.

There is some speculation that Detroit-area lawmakers may be more prone to vote for the clean bill now that the primary election is over. If HB 4163 is approved in the House, it will go to the governor for signature.


Anonymous said...

According the book "Fundamentals of Smoke free Workplace Laws" published by the tax exempt RJ Wood charities that sponsor the ban through funding by drug companies that sell smoking cessation products, page 7 through 10 explains that they can allow no exemptions. If allowing exemptions is the only way to get a ban passed, on the last page, they instruct their lobbyists to keep returning, badgering lawmakers to remove exemptions one at a time for several years until all freedoms are finally gone. The money from the drug companies to the Robert J. Wood Foundation is endless. I often think lawmakers pass their laws just to get them to finally go away, like little kids having a temper tantrum. The Tennessee speaker of the house got so fed up with their badgering, he kicked them out, threatening to repeal the bans that already existed. 90 days is also demanded for it to take effect in this publication. These highly trained lobbyist are paid with tax exempt funds, an illegal activity.

Communications guru said...

Thanks for the link, I appreciate it. However, I don't see the things you are talking about in it. I don't see anything or proof about RJ Wood charities or "funding by drug companies that that sell smoking cessation products." The guide is a citizen's guide.

I can tell you the smoking ban effort here in Michigan is a citizen, grassroots effort with no lobbyist I am aware of. However, that's not the case with the pro-smoking forces. The two biggest opponent of the workplace smoking ban are the Michigan Restaurant Association and the Michigan Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association. Both have lobbyists on staff and receive money from the tobacco companies.

I see where it talks about exceptions, but I missed the part about instructing "their lobbyists to keep returning, badgering lawmakers to remove exemptions one at a time for several years until all freedoms are finally gone."

This is what it said about exceptions:
"It can be very difficult after investing so much time and resources into a smokefree campaign to walk away with nothing, but often that is the best thing to do. Don’t be afraid to walk away with nothing rather than to accept something that hinders your future efforts."

I don't agree. The goal, obviously, is to have no exceptions. Every single worker should be protected from deadly secondhand smoke, no matter if they work in the corner bar, a Lansing office building, or a Detroit factory. That's what this bill is about: protecting the health of workers.

I will accept exceptions to get a ban in place, but you are correct in that the ultimate goal should be to get rid of them all in order to have a complete indoor public smoking ban that protects all workers, no matter where they work.

This is certainly not about "the loss of freedoms." You can smoke until your lungs turn black. You just can't do the same to a non-smoker with secondhand smoke.

ka_Dargo_Hussein said...

I'm a smoker. Full disclosure, I'm down to 2 or 3 cigs a day.

As a smoker, I know how hard it is to quit. I also know the foulness a smoker can bring to the surrounding environment. If you've ever been near a smoker on a still day, the odor is almost palpable. When I used to smoke heavily, a regular laundering would not take the stench out. Laundering them, then rinsing them in vinegar did the best job, but there was still a remnant.

I travel a lot. I NEVER request a smoking room because of the foulness left over from previous smokers. As a side note, hotels are levying surcharges if their patrons smoke in the room. As far as I'm concerned, they are right to do so as the odor amounts to destruction of property in my mind.

On the other side of that, booze, food, and gambling have nothing to do with smoking and their related industries don't have a dog in this fight in my opinion.

Cigar bars, different story...folks go there to smoke.

The majority of this country does not smoke and should not be subjected to my second hand smoke.

My rights end where your rights begin.

ka_Dargo_Hussein said...

Stupid me, when I mentioned laundering, I left out clothes. I know everyone is smart enough to know what I was talking about, but still, the sentence looks dumb.

My bad.

Anonymous said...

Of the 34 or so states with smoking bans, all but Washington and Delaware exempt tobacco shops. Nonsmokers never work in or enter them.

You cannot recommend cigars to customers if you don't smoke them. That's why anti-smoking groups in states such as Illinois and Ohio even wrote that exemption into the templates they gave lawmakers.

It makes no sense to ban smoking in these locations. It's too bad Michigan lawmakers appear ready to kill yet another small business niche.

At least I travel frequently to states whose smoking bans make a litttle more sense -- like exempting cigar stores.

Communications guru said...

I was a smoker for some 20 years, but I haven't spent much time in a cigar shop. But from my days as a smoker, I remember that I have bought a pack of cigarettes but never expected to smoke them there. When I go to the supermarket to buy food, I never eat it there.

I can live with an exception – let's hope the people who work there can – for a cigar shop, but I don't see how a ban will kill a business. I don't see how you can say a nonsmoker does not work at a cigar store.

Anonymous said...

Well, I've never met a nonsmoker in a cigar store. People know exactly what they're going in there for: tobacco. If 32 other states with so-called comprehensive smoking bans can exempt tobacco shops -- an incredibly narrow business group -- I don't see what the big deal is in Michigan.

Every legislature that has passed a smoking ban since 2003 has exempted tobacco stores. Every one: Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Illinois, Nevada, Oregon, Iowa, Idaho, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania, which took effect this week. And I skipped a few states.

In fact, here's what an American Lung Assn spokeswoman from Illinois said about the tobacco shop exemption in her state's law, which she helped draft:

"Under the law, retail tobacco stores where at least 80 percent of gross income comes from the sale of tobacco or tobacco-related products can continue to allow smoking inside their doors in 2008. ...

The retail tobacco shop exemption is a common characteristic of state smoking bans, said Kathy Drea, director of public policy for the American Lung Association of Illinois and Greater Chicago, which drafted the legislation.

Drea said that some form of the tobacco store exemption is in the laws of the 21 other states that have passed smoking bans... "

So I don't understand Michigan.

And here's how it kills such a business. I know of a cigar store, about 10 years old, that has an upstairs members-only lounge. That whole area will be illegal if HB 4163 is passed. The store owner will lose the membership revenue, he will lose the humidified locker rental revenue, and he no longer needs a shop that includes an upstairs.

Another example: I know a cigar store that moved two doors down from his old location and put in a new lounge about a year ago. That expansion is a wasted investment now. The shop only has two employees; both smokers.

Whom are they going to protect there with this ban?

Communications guru said...

Every clerk in every cigar store is a non-smoker? Plus, this is a workplace smoking ban. Again, I'm willing to see this certain exception, but the problem is the Senate Majority Leader. If he will allow a vote on HB 4163 when it's returned to the Senate with that exception, then its fine with me. This bill has been pushed for more than 10 years, and they should not wait a day, even if this does not have that exception.

What you are offering me is two examples that could be made up or true. Again, I have heard of few places where you can't buy an item unless you consume it there. I can buy beer at Meijer, but I can't drink it there.

Who I am going to protect with this ban is the 80 percent of Americans who do not smoke.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you that Mike Bishop and the Senate GOP handled this very, very poorly. I've told him as much in an e-mail.

And I never said there wasn't a need for a smoking ban; I was just giving examples of a small, noncontroversial exemption in almost every U.S. state.

You don't have to believe me, but both examples are true, and the article excerpt was from the Chicago Tribune. All those other state laws are "workplace" bans, too. Exempting tobacco stores doesn't subvert anything.

Clearly, this was understood by the House, based on HB 5074 and the original 4163.

And if every other workplace in a state is nonsmoking, is a tobacco shop the only employment someone can get? I don't think so.

Of course, I can't guarantee a nonsmoker has never worked in a tobacco store, but having visited dozens in states from California to New York, I have yet to meet one in such a place.

And places like hookah parlors do only sell tobacco products for on-premises consumption, so they are going to close.

I do blame the GOP for most of this. The House version of HB 4163 was a bill that made 99% of workplaces nonsmoking while not closing businesses that depends on tobacco.

It's too bad they chose to put some places out of business.

Communications guru said...

I apologize for going a little overboard. This is something that I, and many other people, feel strongly about, and we have waited far too long for it.

Again, I am more than willing to - if it was up to me, of course – allow for that small exception. Like I said before, however, the way it has played out makes that really tough to do. But on the other hand, what I said before about not having to consume something on the premises just because you buy it there still has some merit.

Of course a cigar shop is not the only employment people can get, but with an 8 percent unemployment rate, a job is a job. Plus, the way wages are falling and staying stagnant, most people, including me, have two jobs.

The debate between HB 4163 and 5074 centered mostly on casinos, not cigar shops. I don't know much about hookah parlors because I have never seen one, but I do know it is extremely dangerous.

Anonymous said...

And I apologize if I overreacted as well -- I read this blog often enough that I know you don't get many apologies from posters.

But I enjoy cigars, weekly usually, and am happy to go to a place where I don't offend anyone. Cigar lounges are a place where I can do that. That's why I'm sad to see them forced to close, without a grandfthering clause or even a phase-in.

You could argue that by requiring tobacco shops to have customers smoke outside, they'll actually annoy more passersby with a bunch of people out front smoking cigars.

I know casinos were the hangup. I understand their lobbying power. But I don't understand why the cigar shops and cigar bars got entagled in that. New Jersey exempted casinos initially from its smoking ban, but is enforcing it there this fall.

Anti-smoking groups did not, and have not, attempted to remove the state's exemption for tobacco stores or cigar bars, however.

It will be interesting to see what, if anything, happens next week. The anti-smoking groups thought they had this sewn up last May. Something else could happen.

I have talked to some lawmakers who, apart from the casinos, did not want to see decades-old neighborhood tobacco shops possibly put out of business.

I don't know if their concerns are strong enough to prevent voting for a bill they otherwise support.

ka_Dargo_Hussein said...

I agree with Nonny...folks going into a smoke shop and folks working at a smoke shop know what they're getting into. To prohibit the business from allowing its patrons to smoke is a little over the top.

Kinda like saying since Type I diabetes is an issue, no one should be allowed to eat cotton candy at the state fair or ice cream at Dairy Queen.