Michigan Workplace Smoking Ban Clears Final Legislative Hurdle

Opponents, including bars and restaurants, have said the state ban is over-regulation and businesses should be able to decide whether to provide smoking areas.

December 11, 2009
A Michigan workplace smoking ban—with exemptions for Detroit casino gaming operations, cigar bars and tobacco specialty retail stores—is on its way to Gov. Jennifer Granholm for signing, after clearing its final legislative hurdle Thursday, December 10.

The state House concurred with the Senate’s passage of the bill earlier in the afternoon and sent it on to Granholm for her expected signature.

The measure, sponsored by Lee Gonzalez, D-Michigan, would take effect May 1 and would prohibit smoking in nearly all workplaces, including bars and restaurants.

The prohibition would not apply to the gaming floors of the three Detroit casinos, establishments that are designated for smoking cigars purchased on or off premises, and stores that primarily sell tobacco products and smoking paraphernalia.

Businesses that do not comply with the new regulations could be subject to a fine of up to $100 for the first offense and up to $500 for subsequent offenses.

The bill’s passage is a victory for anti-smoking and health advocates who have long said Michigan needs to join what are now 37 other states that have enacted some type of smoking regulation.

“Legislators have given Michigan workers the greatest gift of all—the ability to breathe smoke-free air in the workplace,” said Susan Schechter, a spokeswoman for the Campaign for Smokefree Air and director of advocacy at the American Lung Association of Michigan, in a news release. “We have spent more than a decade fighting for the health of Michigan workers and our efforts have finally prevailed.”

But opponents, including bars and restaurants, have said the state ban is over-regulation and businesses should be able to decide whether to provide smoking areas.

“We still are adamantly opposed to a smoking ban,” said Lance Binoniemi, executive director of the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association. “We do feel that business owners should be the ones dictating their own smoking policies.”

He said that with more than 6,000 bars and restaurants smoke-free in Michigan, there’s evidence that a market-based approach works.

Binoniemi also said that if the Legislature does feel the need to ban smoking, “they should treat the entire hospitality industry equally” and not provide exemptions to Detroit casinos, which he said will have a competitive advantage over surrounding bars and restaurants that cannot provide smoking to their patrons.

Detroit casinos have said banning smoking completely in their establishments would mean lost business and in turn decreased tax revenues to the city and state, and would precipitate layoffs.

Filed by Amy Lane of Crain’s Detroit Business, a sister publication of Workforce Management.

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