On May 1, 2010, the state of Michigan will be putting into action the Dr. Ron Davis Smoke Free Air Law. This law creates a smoking ban for all public places including, but not limited to, restaurants, businesses, hospitals, hotels and bars. The Dr. Ron Davis Law does have a few exceptions which include Detroit's three casinos, cigar bars, specialty tobacco stores and home offices.. As the time for actual enforcement of the law is nearing, more and more questions seem to be arising regarding the specifics of the Dr. Ron Davis Law. The main issue is the need for the legislature to announce who will be responsible for the enforcement of this law. Should the police be responsible for responding to complaints or should the health department be responsible for keeping restaurants and bars in line with the law? If the health department is deemed responsible then who will monitor businesses that do not involve food? Not only is this under consideration, but restaurants and other businesses that are affected by the Dr. Ron Davis Law are questioning more specific aspects such as the size and placement of "No Smoking" signs. Restaurants and businesses are also unclear as to the exact dimensions for the outdoor smoking areas. In addition, charity events are questioning whether or not they are restricted under the statute.
Along with technical problems with the law itself, there is also the problem of severely affecting business owners. A prime example of this is hookah bars. Hookah bars have to become a restaurant or apply to become a tobacco specialty store which would make them exempt from the law. Akran Allos, who is featured in an article written by Karen Bouffard, owns a hookah bar and is becoming a smoke shop in order to be in compliance with the new smoking regulations. Allos is quoted as saying "The profit that comes from food and drink isn't much, but it pays the bills" (Bouffard). By changing his hookah bar into a smoke shop, Allos is risking the loss of the money he makes to pay his bills, just to ensure he complies with the new smoking ban, and he is certainly not the only business owner in this situation.
A third issue that this law presents is brought about by the war veterans. War veterans are protesting the new smoking ban saying they should be allowed to smoke because they are a private club that is not open to the public. Thousands of veterans have joined together and signed a petition to amend the Dr. Ron Davis Law to include an exemption for veteran clubs such as the American Legion (Bouffard). Despite the petition, at this time, veteran clubs are subject to the terms of the Dr. Ron Davis Law although this is not to say that these clubs will not be exempt in the future.
Clearly, there are many issues that need to be worked out within the next few weeks to ensure that on May 1, the Dr. Ron Davis Law is a success. Along with these countless issues, there are several political and civilian actors involved in the process of finding answers. James McCurtis, the state Department of Community Health spokesman, is a key actor in this process. In an article published in the Detroit News, Karen Bouffard quotes McCurtis saying that "What we have to do is figure out some details to make sure people are in compliance, and that we have a law people can follow." McCurtis later guarantees that issues with the law will be smoothed over and by May 1 the Dr. Ron Davis Law will be concrete (Bouffard). On a less positive note, the vice president of public affairs for the Michigan Restaurant Association Andy Deloney, is quoted, in the same article, as saying "lawmakers didn't see the mountain of ice underneath the surface of water" (Bouffard). He suggests that the questions being proposed at this stage are only the very beginning and many, more serious issues will arise later on. Deloney is not confident that the legislature will be able to solve all of the potential problems (Bouffard).
Despite doubts, various strong political and civilian actors favor the passage of the Dr. Ron Davis Law. Michigan Department of Community Health Director Janet Olszweski, is quoted as saying "The Legislature passed a strong bill that outright bans smoking in public places. That decision shows that the health of Michigan citizens is a top priority" (Sanchez). Michigan State Medical Society President states that the bill is "one of the most important and significant public health bills that the Michigan Legislature has ever passed" (Sanchez). Andy Hetzel of Blue Cross Blue Shield suggests that this is a step in the right direction towards better health and decreasing health care costs (Sanchez). Deloney agrees with the reasoning for passing the bill but, suggests that the state was already on its way to smoke free restaurants. Over one third of restaurants have already made themselves smoke free and with enough time, the other restaurants would have followed suit. Given that information, Deloney believes that the smoking ban with only cause the legislature more grief due to technicalities and protests when, with time, the state would have moved further toward the goals of the smoking ban without government intervention (Sanchez).
Just recently, a law suit was filed by L. Brooks Patterson, the Oakland County Executive. Patterson was "suing the state over the smoking ban in restaurants and bars that was set to take effect May 1" (Gray). This legal battle was short lived because only six hours after it was filed, Patterson withdrew the suit. Patterson had received about one hundred e-mails and phone calls within those six hours, some from close friends, opposing his position in the suit and asking him to change his views on the smoking ban (Gray). Filing a law suit seems to be one of the most drastic approaches taken to publicize ones views on the smoking ban, but it definitely worked and proved that there are many citizens who support the ban.
Just like every other law, there are supporters and those who disagree with the law whether it is the wording or the reasoning behind why the law was passed. Despite the positives and negatives towards the law, the fact that so many technicalities have arisen is a major problem. One major problem that needs to be addressed is the question of who will be enforcing the smoking ban. As quoted in Karen Bouffard's article, James McCurtis proposes that local health departments will be responsible for enforcing the ban on a complaint basis and the requirements of the smoking ban will be a part of restaurant inspections. Kathy Forzley, of the Oakland county Heath Division, states that "With dwindling funding and trying economic times, implementing a new law without attached funding is very difficult...That's something we're continuing to try and work out with the state" (Bouffard). L. Brooks Patterson also states that he does not agree with the health department being responsible for enforcing the smoking ban (Gray). George Miller, director of Oakland County's health department, supports Patterson's view. Miller states that "sanitarians make about 17,000 visits a year to 4,600 restaurants in the county. Adding cigarette police duties to their plate isn't an effective use of resources" (Gray).
On the other hand, Kent County Health department spokes woman Bridie Bereza simply states that it is unlikely that health departments will be responsible for enforcing the Dr. Ron Davis law (King). Due to many county and health department representatives discussing the health departments' involvement, Bereza's view seems to be the opposite of the solution. But, an issue to be discussed at this point, as suggested by Bereza, is that if a complaint is filed, the health department will respond within five days (King). If immediate enforcement is necessary, the health department simply cannot be responsible. At this point, the police might need to get involved. A Lieutenant on the Grand Rapids police force suggests that if police do need to respond, customers will comply readily due to the fact that such measures were taken. He does not see this as being a time consuming or serious setback for police forces (King). As May 1 draws near, the solution seems to be that the health department will enforce the law with the police getting involved if the complaint is urgent.
Whether enforcement is solely left to the health department or, is a mixture of police and health department officials, there are other issues that must be dealt with. Andy Deloney, who guesses that the health department will be responsible for enforcing the ban, is working hard to ensure that the members of Michigan Restaurant Association know the facts and specifics about the Dr. Ron Davis Law and on May 1, know how to implement the law within their restaurant. One of the main concerns that Deloney brings to the table is how the law gets enforced (Sanchez). Deloney suggests that because of the number of different health departments that will be responsible for enforcing t he law; the potential for uneven enforcement is very high (Sanchez). Michigan restaurants want even enforcement of the ban throughout the state. McCurtis states that, "No one is looking to ticket, but merely searching and asking for compliance" (Bouffard). This quote suggests a solution to Deloney's problem, or at least puts restaurant owners at ease. Education, according to McCurtis, will be the primary means of enforcement (Bouffard).
Michigan's Department of Community Health has a page on their website that gives a brief description of the Dr. Ron Davis Law along with a couple major benefits this law will have on the condition of the air in the state of Michigan. This website also provides a phone number that businesses and restaurant owners can call if they have questions along with a detailed guide to the exact law, frequently asked questions, tools for businesses, resources for cigar bars and other exempted businesses as well as other educational materials (MDCH). Specific information that can be found under the tabs in this guide includes the location of "No Smoking" signs, which must be placed at entrances, and all no smoking areas and the fact that charity events are not exempt from the ban. Although this does not solve some of the issues raised by the businesses that will be affected by the Dr. Ron Davis Law in just a few short weeks, it is a start and a helpful resource for businesses that will need to prepare for the coming changes.
Bouffard, Karen. "Cloud of confusion envelops Michigan smoking ban." The Detroit News 5 Apr. 2010: The Detroit News - detnews.com. 17 Apr. 2010.
Gray, Kathleen. "Patterson retreats, drops lawsuit over smoking ban." Detroit Free Press 15 Apr. 2010: freep.com. 17 Apr. 2010.
King, Kyla. "Who will enforce Michigan's new smoking ban?" The Grand Rapids Press 19 Dec. 2009: mlive.com. 17 Apr. 2010.
"MDCH - Michigan's Smoke-Free Air Law." SOM - State of Michigan. State of Michigan. 17 Apr. 2010.
Sanchez, Mark. "Smoking ban's enforcement worries restaurant group." West Michigan Business Review 15 Dec. 2009: Mlive.com. 17 Apr. 2010.