New law snuffs out smoking

Starting May 1, Michigan residents will be barred from smoking in most public establishments, as House Bill No. 4377 goes into effect that day.

James McCurtis Jr., public information officer for the Michigan Department of Community Health, said they’ve been pushing for a public smoking ban for more than 10 years.

“It started out as an idea that this is good to keep people healthy in Michigan and it just evolved from there,” McCurtis said.

The bill, also known as the Ron M. Davis Law in honor of the late chief medical officer of the MDCH, passed both the Michigan House and Senate on Dec. 10. Governor Jennifer Granholm signed the bill into law eight days later, making Michigan the 38th state to prohibit smoking in public establishments.

Exempt from the ban are: vehicles and home offices; the gaming floors of the three Detroit casinos; existing cigar bars that have a humidor and make at least 10 percent of their total revenue from cigar sales; and tobacco shops that make 75 percent of their sales from tobacco products and don’t serve food and drinks.

Michigan’s 20 Native American casinos are also exempt because state law does not cover them.

All places subject to the ban are required to post “no smoking” signs or the international “no smoking” symbol in a visible place. Individuals and business owners who violate the law will be subject to penalties of $100 for the first offense and $500 for subsequent offenses.

“This is for the greater good of all citizens of Michigan,” McCurtis said.

According to MDCH, second-hand smoke is the third leading cause of preventable deaths in Michigan, responsible for approximately 2,500 deaths a year.

“The law might make people quit or, at a minimum, smoke less,” said Judy Stewart, Campaign for Smokefree Air campaign manager and government relations director at the American Cancer Society.

“I think it’s going to be good for the state,” said Alexis Zuccaro, a general manager at Gus O’Connor’s Public House in downtown Rochester.

She said it will require “an adjustment period,” but she doesn’t foresee it having a negative impact on the restaurant’s business.

“There will be some disappointed guests, of course, but I think we’re going to gain some people as well,” Zuccaro said.

At Oakland University, smoking is prohibited in any public area of the buildings, but is allowed in designated areas and outdoors, 25 feet away from buildings.

“Personally, I think our country has done a complete 180,” said Brian Clarkston, a junior math major, citing that tobacco was an integral crop during the founding of America. He said the ban isn’t likely to make him quit.

Braley Bullard, a sophomore studying journalism and photography, used to live in Chicago and London, which both ban smoking in public. She said she enjoyed living in both places because she doesn’t like for her clothes to smell like smoke.

But standing outside in 25-degree weather, Bullard said smoking bans haven’t made her quit so far. “You get to be more social hanging out with all the smokers in the freezing cold.”

“To me it seems like drinking, a lot of the time, goes hand in hand with smoking for a lot of people,” said Jillian Albert, an undecided freshman who smokes. But she added that it might be good for smokers who are trying to quit.

Loren Bailey, a freshman majoring in sociology and anthropology, said it depends. She said it’s going to be hard for bars because “it’s what you do in there,” but as a non-smoker, she likes the idea of not having to put up with the smell.

In 2004, Ireland became the first European country to impose a public smoking ban, and as an Irish pub, Zuccaro said Gus O’Connor’s is trying to look at it in a positive light.