It’s Time For A Real Smoking Ban

Larry Price
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Wednesday - March 29, 2006
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One of the things that has always amazed me about bills proposed in the Legislature every year is how many are very vague and lack common sense. At the same time, the few bills that do have an abundance of evidence to their merit have a difficult time making it though the lawmaking process.

SB 3262, SD 1 is a good example of a proposed bill that has an abundance of evidence and is still hotly debated. Seventeen years ago, Hawaii passed a statewide anti-smoking bill. It was hailed as a breakthrough nationwide.

The law was passed based on medical evidence that tobacco smoke is a major contributor to many health problems. Research now confirms that second-hand smoke causes heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease and lung cancer in nonsmokers. In point of fact, it is attributed to thousands of premature deaths and illnesses in Hawaii annually.


Imagine the disbelief you would experience after your annual physical to find you have lung cancer even though you have never smoked a cigarette in your life! But now there is reliable research demonstrating heightened health dangers to those exposed to secondhand smoke.

All counties in Hawaii have adopted ordinances that offer varying levels of protection to workers and the public against secondhand smoke, although there isn’t a consistent level of basic protection.

Any rational person would agree that there should be a consistent level of basic protection from exposure to secondhand smoke. But there are some very rational people who have some good arguments against a law that would ban secondhand smoke in public areas. Most argue over the definition of public places. On top of the list is bars. The definition of a bar, according to the proposed legislation, is “An establishment that is devoted to the serving of alcoholic beverages for consumption by guests on the premises regardless of whether food is served, including but not limited to taverns, cocktail lounges and cabarets, including outdoor areas of bars.” There are 20 definitions about enforcement of the bill, so many that the main thrust of the bill is almost forgotten: Secondhand smoke is the cause of many health problems.

Some are reluctant to pass such a sensible and rational bill because they believe it violates a person’s civil rights. If a person is an adult and wants to smoke, regardless of the known risks, who can deny them that right? Some smokers believe they will gain weight if they stop smoking. Others argue all their friends smoke, and there are smokers who claim their parents smoked until they passed away at the age of 90. Those are just a few of the rationalizations smokers use to cover their habit. The fact none of them likes to admit is that the nicotine in cigarettes is addicting and it is a difficult habit to kick.


I hope the bill passes this time around. One of the stronger arguments against the bill is that it would make our large number of Japanese visitors unhappy, especially in Waikiki and other tourist destinations. I know that sounds a little ridiculous; however, appeasing the tourists from Japan is always uppermost on our legislators’ minds. There are not very many limits on what they wouldn’t do to keep our No. 1 industry happy.

If the bill is watered down or killed for that reason, maybe it’s time to install those Japanese toilets in all the airports and tourist locations to make them really feel at home.

I believe there’s a part of everyone’s conscience that believes adults should have the freedom to do what they feel like. And while that is a true entitlement in a democratic society, I don’t believe smokers want the responsibility of having their habit cause permanent damage to the health of an innocent bystander.

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