May 1, 2012, marks the two-year anniversary of the implementation of the Dr. Ron Davis Smoke Free Air Law, which banned smoking in bars and restaurants throughout the state.
The purpose of this law was to protect the “public health and well-being of workers and customers alike,” according to the Michigan Department of Community Health’s website.
“This is the best thing to happen to Michigan,” said Barb Morell, patron at Marty’s Bar and Grill in Mount Pleasant. “Having a smoke-free area is a good thing. There are people that have health problems, and they need to be protected from the smoke if they go into a restaurant or into a bar.”
One of the major concerns raised when legislators were reviewing the smoking ban was that it would result in declining in business for many establishments.
“We have not seen any decline in business over the last two years,” said Paula Phillips, general manager at Lone Star Steakhouse in Mount Pleasant.
Those who implemented a smoking ban prior to the enactment of the law have also seen little impact.
Having become a smoke-free establishment 16 months prior to the bill being passed, Mountain Town Station in Mount Pleasant was not fazed by the State’s decision.
“Our core demographic is not the bar scene or the hardcore smokers,” said Michael Fick, assistant general manager. “Those that are have accepted it. It makes the food taste better and creates a better atmosphere for the customers.”
Other Mount Pleasant businesses have not been as fortunate.
“It definitely affected business in the beginning,” said Courtney Snody, manager at Marty’s. “It obviously wasn’t something that we would have imposed had it not been the law. We have a lot of regular customers that have come to this bar for over 20 years that are smokers. I think it was a really big adjustment for them.”
Steve Bissell, owner of the Blackstone Bar in Mount Pleasant, focused on the impact the law had not only on his business but also his suppliers (vending machines, jukeboxes, pool tables).
“When people are smoking outside, they’re not playing games, they’re not playing music, they’re not playing pool. It affects me…it affects a lot of the community.”
One unintended (or perhaps intentional) consequence of the law is an increase in the number of people quitting smoking.
“I quit,” said Fick, adding, “I don’t think I would’ve been able to had the ban not been in place.”
Some find it makes no difference at all.
“None of my friends have quit smoking because they have to do it outside,” said Sean Hoolehan, patron at The Bird Bar and Grill in Mount Pleasant. “The winter sucks, but in the summertime, why not be outside? You’ve got the sunshine; you’ve got warm weather; you’ve got good friends, especially at the bar.”
Most are happy with the smoke-free environments, but some remain bitter about the way it was implemented.
“Nobody should be happy about this because of the way that it went through,” said Ben Breidenstein, manager at The Bird. “You weren’t given a choice; it was just taken away from you.”
Most smokers seem willing to comply with this law, acknowledging that times have certainly changed.
“Smoking is one of those things that you’re allowed to be prejudiced against,” said Sting, adding, “We understand that we have a smelly habit and not everyone wants to be around it, so we’ll do it outside.”
Business owners, employees and patrons all seemingly share the belief that this law is here to stay, but some would like subtle changes to be made.
“I think it should be up to the business owners,” said Don Armstrong, patron at Marty’s. “Like this bar, where the owner and every employee here all smoke. And they have to go outside their own business just to have a cigarette?”
“It could be modified,” said Sting. “There could be designated smoking areas like a pavilion or a patio, like we have here, that could actually bring in business. We [smokers] need safe havens.”