Should smoking be allowed again in Michigan bars, restaurants?

Posted at 5:43 PM, Apr 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-25 17:43:43-04

GREENVILLE, Mich. — A growing number of residents and business owners are pushing for changes to the state law banning smoking in bars, restaurants and veteran's halls.

"Ban the Ban Michigan" is proposing an amendment to current state law that would allow smoking in outdoor eating areas and indoor areas designated for patrons 21 years and older, a spokesperson told FOX 17.

Michigan's Smoke Free Air Law went into effect in 2010.

"It’s had a negative effect, there’s no question about it," said Mike Huckleberry, owner of Huckelberry's Restaurant and Bar in Greenville.

But while Huckelberry acknowledges he lost customers in the change, he says he wouldn't allow smoking again if given the choice.

“On one end we’ve lost some customers, on another end we’ve gained customers," he said. "Having said that, I think every bar and restaurant should be allowed to do what they want.”

At the time the law was passed, Huckleberry was a state representative for the 70th House District. He didn't support the ban then and still feels it's a decision best left to the business owner.

Sheri Woody, spokesperson for "Ban the Ban," told FOX 17 that Michigan's ban is one of the toughest in the nation, arguing that businesses serving alcohol in other states like Indiana are still able to allow patrons to smoke.

A study commissioned by the state two years after the ban found "no significant negative impact" on overall business or monthly Keno sales at restaurants and bars.

"It is important to note that while some establishments saw sales fluctuations after the passage of the Dr. Ron Davis Smoke-Free Air Law, bars and restaurants as a whole were not adversely affected," James K. Havemen, then-Director of the MDCH, said in the report.

"We commend Michigan bars and restaurants for their support in transitioning to a smoke-free environment as this law  has also drastically improved the air quality in these establishments. There is no question that Michiganders have a healthier environment because of this important piece of legislation."

Health advisers are weary of the proposal.

Cassie Kobler with the Kent County Health Department said any changes to the state's smoking ban would be short-sighted and put the health of non-smokers at risk.

“I think it’s very contrary to the work we’re doing with prevention, as well as making sure the greater good, the larger population is being protected," Kobler said.

Kobler, who manages the county health department's R.E.A.C.H. grant, said their focus remains on promoting tobacco-free living while offering support for those looking to quit.

"I think taking a step back and looking at the greater numbers who will be protected by it is paramount," she said.

"Ban the Ban" claims to have surveyed more than 5,000 people in the state, of which 86 percent agreed a compromise was needed on the state's smoking ban.

Amending the state's current law would require gaining support from lawmakers in Lansing.