Under Michigan law, smoking is banned in all public places, including bars and restaurants, even if that bar or restaurant has an outdoor patio or wants to install one for smokers. Some in Lansing are looking to change that, including an Oakland County lawmaker.
State Rep. Tim Melton (D-Auburn Hills), a former Oakland County commissioner, has proposed lifting that prohibition in House Bill (HB) 4447, although with Republicans wielding all the power in the state capitol, the legislation is likely facing an uphill battle.
The legislation — which was introduced on March 16 — has been referred to the House Regulatory Reform Committee, where it currently awaits action.
And while the Michigan Restaurant Association hasn’t formed an official stance on the measure, they have argued in the past against creating exemptions for certain businesses, said Andy Deloney, a White Lake resident who is also the vice president of public affairs for the organization.
“We fought the smoking ban for 20 years,” he said. “Obviously we never wanted to see it go into effect in the first place.”
That being said, the association has “always” opposed carving out exemptions for businesses with outdoor patios would create an uneven playing field for bars and restaurants that don’t have them, according to Deloney.
“Our attitude was very strongly that if it (the smoking ban) was going to happen, it’s got to include everybody — no exceptions,” he said.
Under the Dr. Ron Davis Smoke Free Air Act, smoking and the use of all other tobacco products — including non-cigarette smoking tobacco and smokeless tobacco — is prohibited in all public places and food service establishments throughout the state. Besides protecting patrons from secondhand smoke, the law is designed to protect employees, including those working in a restaurant or bar, from the effects of secondhand smoke.
The act was officially passed by the state Senate and House on Dec. 10, 2009, before being signed into law by then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm on Dec. 18, 2009.
Places that are exempt from the smoke-free law are cigar bars, tobacco specialty retail stores, and the gaming floors of casinos, as well as motor vehicles. Only cigars can be smoked in cigar bars, with all other tobacco products prohibited.
Republicans control the state House of Representatives, 63-47, the state Senate, 26-12, and the governor’s mansion.
Repeated messages left at Melton’s Lansing office went unreturned prior to press time.