Mich. lawmakers pass smoking ban; casinos exempt

AP News
Posted: Dec 10, 2009 5:58 PM

The Michigan Legislature passed a long-delayed smoking ban Thursday, with exceptions for three Detroit casinos that have to compete with tribal casinos not affected by the ban.

The Democrat-led House agreed Thursday afternoon to slight changes made by the Republican-led Senate earlier in the day. The bill now goes to Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who welcomed the bill's passage.

"It's a terrific gift to Michigan," she told reporters.

The ban will take effect in May 2010. It applies to all bars, restaurants and work places, except for the Detroit casinos, cigar bars, tobacco specialty stores, home offices and motor vehicles.

Although smoking will be allowed on casino gambling floors, it will be banned in the casinos' bars, restaurants and hotels.

The Senate approved a ban with no exceptions last year, but that bill failed in the House, which wanted the exceptions for the Detroit casinos. The House in May passed the bill adopted Thursday by the Senate.

With Granholm's signature, Michigan will become the 38th state to limit smoking in public places such as government buildings, bars and restaurants, according to Sen. Ray Basham, D-Taylor, who has kept alive the push for a statewide smoking ban. He favors a total ban, but was satisfied with the progress so far.

"We've moved the ball down the court, and even scored a basket," he said of Thursday's vote. "We haven't scored a three-pointer."

Sen. Tupac Hunter, D-Detroit, also wanted casinos included in the ban but was pleased with the Senate vote.

"It will be a great day in this state when we are totally, 100 percent smoke free ... (but) I'm very proud of what we've done today," he said.

Several senators, including Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, said they objected to the ban because it intruded on decisions bar and restaurant owners should make based on their customers' desires.

"This is a blatant overreach by government," Bishop said.

The Michigan Licensed Beverage Association, which lobbied against the measure, predicted the smoking ban would cost the state thousands of jobs.

"It's our elected officials' responsibility in this economic climate to pass legislation that helps all Michigan businesses, not just a few select business groups," executive director Lance Binoniemi said in a statement.

Public health officials praised the measure.

"The Legislature today has made a great stride forward toward building healthier communities for everyone in Michigan," said Dr. Greg Holzman, the chief medical executive for the Michigan Department of Community Health.

Among nearby states, only Indiana doesn't have some type of smoking ban in place. Michigan lawmakers have been trying for more than a decade to pass a ban.

Some residents remain opposed to it, including Don Doze, 54, who was eating Thursday in the smoking section of a Big Boy restaurant in Detroit.

"I want to enjoy my food or drink, and enjoy my cigarette," said Doze, a Detroit retiree who has smoked for decades. "I don't want to walk away from my table to go outside and smoke."

Heaven White, 35, of Detroit, who was sitting in the nonsmoking section of the same restaurant, said a ban on smoking in restaurants and the workplace is good. Still, she said smoking should be allowed in bars.

"Smoking goes with drinking," White said. "That's the place you go to be a bad girl, a bad boy."

Mike Nolan, owner of a tobacco shop in downtown Traverse City and president of the Michigan Cigar Association, described the bill as a "mixed blessing." He was pleased outlets such as his were exempt but said the measure treats smokers unfairly.

"It should be a matter of choice _ for the customer, for the bar and restaurant owner, for the employee working there," Nolan said.

Granholm said the lack of a smoking ban made Michigan look like a state that didn't care about health. That perception should change with a ban being put in place, she said.

After the Senate passed the ban 24-13 Thursday, the House passed it 75-30.

Republican Sen. Bill Hardiman of Kentwood didn't vote because he was absent. Only one Senate Democrat, Sen. Jim Barcia of Bay City, joined a dozen Senate Republicans in opposing the bill.

In the House, the bill was opposed by 23 Republicans and seven Democrats. Five representatives didn't vote. Rep. Ed Clemente, a Lincoln Park Democrat who was in the restaurant business, said he didn't vote because he had a conflict of interest.


Associated Press reporters David Runk in Detroit, John Flesher in Traverse City and Tim Martin in Lansing contributed to this story.