Smoking snuffed out in Michigan public placesPublished 10:40am Friday, December 18, 2009
By AARON MUELLER
Niles Daily Star
It’s official. Gov. Jennifer Granholm will sign legislation today at 1 p.m. that will ban smoking in all public places next year.
The legislation, which cleared the Senate and House of Representatives a week ago, will make Michigan the 38th state to go smoke-free, starting May 1, 2010. The only three exceptions to the regulations would be the gaming floors of the three Detroit casinos, cigar bars and tobacco speciality stores.
Businesses that do not comply with the regulations could be fined $100 for the first offense and as much as $500 for following offenses.
Owners of restaurants that allow smoking, like Dave Dulemba of the Golden Nugget in Niles, hope that the ban will not result in a huge hit in business.
“For the individual (smoker), it’s a negative,” Dulemba said. “As a business owner the best thing to say is that it’s too early to tell what it will do. In the last 15 years, we’ve seen our tables go to 65 percent non-smoking. I’m just hoping the bottom line is that it won’t be a problem.”
However, area bars are another story.
Gary Koller, owner of B&J Pub in Niles, in concerned that some of his smoking customers may head for the border to bars in Indiana where no such laws exist.
“It will affect business from the standpoint of location,” he said. “If you’re in Lansing, it makes no difference. But we are eight miles from the state line. We are adjacent to a county in Indiana which allows smoking. For (every bar within) 15 miles (of the state line), it will be devastating.”
It’s not that Koller didn’t see the law coming, but he and other bar owners are upset with the strictness of the regulations.
“I think every bar owner in Michigan knew sooner or later it would happen,” he said. “I think what’s unfortunate is that the Michigan legislature, which has God only knows what to worry about, saw fit to enact one of the strictest non-smoking legislations in the country, which included outside patios.”
Frank Miner of Niles, a regular at B&J Pub, was not happy when he heard about the legislation and believes many smokers will either stay home to drink and smoke or head for Indiana.
“I think it’s an infringement of our rights,” he said. “If people don’t want to go to a bar because there’s smoke there, they don’t have to go there. It’s way out of line. It’s going to kill the business in Michigan.”
Local lawmakers are happy to see the legislation finally pass.
Rep. Sharon Tyler, R-Niles, supported the bill and believes it reflects what most Michiganders wanted.
“A lot of my constituents in southwest Michigan contacted me asking me to support this bill,” Tyler said after the bill passed the House last week. “Michigan residents will now be able to work without fear of second-hand smoke and frequent smoke-free establishments.”
Sen. Ron Jelinek, R-Three Oaks, helped write the bill.
“This will be a great early Christmas gift to the residents of Michigan who have been asking for smoke-free air for a long time,” said Jelinek in a press release last week. “Michigan will join 37 other states in making workplaces healthier for employees and going out to eat more enjoyable for families.”