Restaurants Want Smoking Ban Delayed
Hawaii restaurant owners say that they will urge the Honolulu City Council to back off a proposal to ban smoking in restaurants on Oahu.
The Hawaii Restaurant Association plans to tell council members during a meeting Wednesday that a smoking ban will hurt business at a time that Hawaii is trying to get tourists back after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
"Right now, everybody in the industry is doing their level best to survive and we don't want to get into a contentious battle that would send the wrong message," Pat McCain of the Hawaii Restaurant Association says.
According to the association, 60 percent of Japanese visitors and 25 percent of mainland visitors smoke. In light of the fall in tourism after the attacks, McCain wants the council's public safety committee to postpone the proposed smoking ban for one year.
But health officials say that banning smoking could have the opposite effect of actually attracting more customers.
"We actually have very good studies that have been done in a number of cities where they have smoke-free ordinances in restaurants and bars," state deputy health director Virginia Pressler says. "Revenues have been maintained or they have actually improved in some cases, so there just isn't any data to support that fear."
The Health Department, with the support of the hotel and restaurant workers union Local 5, has been running television commercials asking for a smoking ban. The ads have been paid for with money from the state's settlement with the tobacco companies.
The proposed ban on smoking would cover the eating sections of restaurants, not the bars. The council previously has twice rejected outright bans on smoking in restaurants.