Apr 2, 2009
Restaurant owners break ranks with state association and support smoking ban
LANSING – The House Regulatory Reform Committee did not vote out a workplace smoking ban bill that includes bars and restaurants Wednesday as expected, but it did take 90 minutes of testimony on the ban like it has the previous two committee meetings devoted strictly to the smoking ban.
The committee hearings have evolved into a familiar pattern, with tobacco-financed opponents of the ban offering false, anecdotal information that bars and restaurants will lose businesses if a smoking ban is put in places, and proponents offering peer-reviewed evidence that it will not hurt business, along with the medical community testifying on the deadly effects of secondhand smoke. No one has yet contradicted that fact. Also, no one has accounted or addressed how the less than 25 percent who still smoke can have such a big effect on business.
Former Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema, R-Wyoming, now a Senior Policy Fellow at Lansing-based Public Sector Consultants, testified about the independent study he released last April called “Smoke-Free Workplaces: The Impact of House Bill 4163 on the Restaurant and Bar Industry in Michigan” that concluded the Michigan restaurant and bar industry will experience no net economic impact from a smoking ban. Sikkema blocked smoking ban legislation when he was the majority leader because he also falsely believed it would hurt business, but this study changed his mind.
“The Public Sector Consultants study was not based on anecdotal information," Sikkema said. “It's not based on what people thought would happen, it's based on what actually happened after states and local communities became smoke-free."
In the past, the Michigan Restaurant Association has paraded bar and restaurant owners before the committee against the ban that support the association’s position that it should be up to the individual owner, but some individual members showed up at the hearing on their own with a different take.
“I ask that you make Michigan smoke free, with no exceptions,” said Charles Roy, the owner of the Cass Café in downtown Detroit. “Unless there is an across the board ban, we will lose business to one that allows smoking.”
Ryan Colthorp, owner of Ryan’s Roadhouse in St. Johns, said in states with smoking bans in place bars and restaurants are thriving.
“I am also s member of the Michigan Restaurant Association, and I don’t agree with their stand,” he said. “I don’t see how or why Michigan is so behind other states.”
Fred Anderson, Deputy Director of the Michigan Osteopathic Association, testified in support of the bill on behalf of the 72,000 physicians the association represents. He referenced Article IV Section 51 of the Michigan Constitution that compels the Legislature to pass the bill, and it says “The public health and general welfare of the people of the state are hereby declared to be matters of primary public concern. The legislature shall pass suitable laws for the protection and promotion of the public health.”
“We respectfully request you pass a comprehensive smoking ban that protects all workers, regardless of where they work,” Anderson said. “The Michigan Constitution gives you clear direction in passing this.
“I have never seen my members so passionate about an issue,” he said.
The Committee expects to vote out House Bill 4377 when the Legislature returns from its two-week break, and the committee would meet on April 22 if its regular schedule were maintained.