Message from HIBOA on smoking ban exemptions

I support the passage of HB1469.



Dear Representatives,


I speak to you today as a representative of the Hawaii Bar Owners Association. Many of those bar owners involved 7 years ago are no longer in our industry many directly as a result of the smoking ban but also as result of the reactionary legislation that has followed that ban.


7 years ago after the passing of the ban I asked these questions; to the legislature, neighborhood boards and the press.


Do you want litter on your streets and sidewalks?


Do you want noise on the streets and sidewalks until 4am every night?


Do you want fights and violence on the streets and sidewalks nightly?


Every one said no.


Well that is the effect of every smoking ban ever created. Our patrons have been inside the bars for many long years without these problems blooming. I forewarned these things and warned that the reactionary measures to come would threaten our industry.

Past years we have pending legislation to

  • Register security in our bars with background checks.
  • Limits on cabaret hours
  • Limits on existing cabaret licenses with removals of some licenses
  • Compliance to smoking laws to renew licenses
  • Assault charges for smokers in public areas (sidewalks)
  • Outright banning of 4am licenses
  • Noise and Nuisance bills
  • Removal of liquor license bills based on nuisance issues
  • Civil lawsuits over noise issues

These legislative issues are piled on every year now as a direct reactionary result of the ban. We did not put the customers outside to disturb the peace, the legislature did with the passing of a smoking ban. The Liquor Commission of any county would not allow customers outdoors during those hours.


Legislators think we can monitor sidewalks, streets and common areas. Well those are public areas and often City and County property and we do not have the right or insurance coverage to control property that is not ours.


Bills need to have common sense, forethought and must be rational. We need to avoid reactionary and emotional bills, yet that is what we face every session.


The Smoking ban and its administrative rules are emotional and not rational. Let’s proceed with common sense. I ask you to look at the law and those rules to assure they comply with constitutional and practical issues.


Bars enhance the visitor experience with nightlife and entertainment. We contribute to the health of our visitor industry. We provide jobs, wages, sales taxes, income taxes and a multitude of sin taxes. Thirty percent of the world smokes and we should make them feel welcome and not the recipients of a second rate aloha. Our goal is to get every customer back and that should be the role of government as well.


Why must we have the strictest law in the nation and perhaps the world? To what benefit? To please the anti-smoking groups? What income do they provide the state? Those anti-groups are a draw upon our tax dollars not a producer of tax dollars. Their economic impact study was completed by an epidemiologist from a NY cancer research center who had done 14 other studies for smoking bans all stating that they had no economic impact. The groups are emotional and reactionary and do not use common sense or reality. That would have called for a study completed by a non-biased group such as our economic departments of the state or the university.


Those groups and the state should just ban smoking outright and make it illegal. But neither they nor our state will give up the income that smoking brings to them. I can legally sell tobacco products in my bars but I can’t let them light them. That is like giving them an unopened beer bottle to sit with at the bar.


Economically they cited the benefits in the British Isles where the known result has been the closing of 6500 pubs while experiencing an increase in alcohol and tobacco consumption opposite of the health group’s goals. The pub scene has died there and the effect upon tourism is substantial. Let’s not let that happen here.


So let’s be practical. Allow some form of smoking in bars. That is what this bill provides. Eighty percent of our population does not smoke and thus twenty percent who do must suffer the tyranny of the majority on this smoking issue to suffer while using a legal product. Conversely seventy percent of my customer base smokes and a minority of my customers do not. I am faced with the dilemma of serving customers who are not there. The nonsmokers do not frequent bars. It is not a business model that can succeed.


A practical solution to this is to allow a small number of the bars to allow smoking through exemptions. This permits registered bars to open their bars to customers. It will not affect all bars and no restaurants or hotels. Not all bars are strip clubs and not everyone goes to a strip club yet they exist legally. Not everyone would go to a smoking bar but some will if it is legal. It becomes a matter of choice. Please look at the severity of the ban, its inability to allow compromise and how it has forced us to look for relief through this bill.


Our industry has suffered increases in costs, wages, workman’s comp, unemployment benefits and utilities with increased property, payroll, income, conveyance taxes. While bottle bills, liquor and tobacco taxes have increased with increasing reactive legislation continues to threaten our businesses. Our industry is hanging on by its fingernails. Please allow us some practical relief and pass this bill.


Let’s use common sense and practical means to create a healthy industry and reap the taxes from those businesses. Let us respect your decisions and please respect our industry and its survival by putting the customers back INSIDE the bars.



Bill Comerford

Hawaii Bar Owners Association

10 Marin Lane

Honolulu, HI 96817



This entry was posted in 2012, Important, Issue, Smoking and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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