People want smoking banned in restaurants

The Kaua’i County Council has received overwhelming testimony in favor of banning smoking in local restaurants.

At a council-sponsored public hearing at the historic County Building Thursday, 30 people spoke in favor of amending a county bill that controls smoking in restaurants. Letters in support of the ban came from 40 individuals and groups, including the American Cancer Society, the Tobacco-Free Coalition, Tobacco-Free Kauai, Smoke Free Hawaii Coalition. The state Department of Health also voiced support for a total smoking ban.

Audience members recommended that any law passed by the council:

– Should be equal to or striker than a restaurant smoking ban law enacted in restaurants on O’ahu.

– Apply to every Kaua’i restaurant and retail space regardless of size.

– No exemptions for restaurants that post “smoking-allowed” signs.

Councilman Jimmy Tokioka introduced the bill and said the recommendations would be considered before the council writes a bill.

The smoking ban proposal is scheduled to be heard before the council’s Finance/Intergovernmental Relations Committee on Aug. 14.

Janice Bond, coordinator of Kauai Tobacco-Free, commended Tokioka for introducing the measure, but said exemptions in the existing restaurant smoking bill have to be deleted before full benefits from the legislation can be reaped.

Echoing her sentiment were John Hunt, chairman of the Tobacco-Free Kauai Coalition, Clifford Chang, executive director for the Smoke Free Hawaii Coalition and Mildred Lum, environmental tobacco smoke coordinator with the state Department of Health.

Bond said the bill is faulty because:

– It only applies to restaurants with more than 1,000 square feet of floor space, and most Kaua’i restaurants are smaller than that.

– There is no requirement that a separate ventilation system be set up for bars in restaurants that allow smoking.

– Any restaurant can still offer areas for smoking by putting up a “”we allow smoking” sign.

– The bill exempts any small business with fewer than five employees and exempts retail stores of less than 5,000 square feet.

“The exemptions make this bill hard to define, hard to interpret , hard to enforce and hard for the public to understand,” Lum said.

Others speakers said they hoped the Kaua’i legislation is as strict or stricter on controlling smoking in restaurants than similar legislation that went into effect in Honolulu in June. Maui County currently is considering such a bill.

Though the O’ahu restaurant smoking ban was initially opposed by restaurant owners, but the law has not adversely impacted their business, supporters of the Kaua’i bill, Lum said.

A video tape was shown of a Honolulu TV newscast polling restaurant owners who reported a few complaints but said they made the transition to “smoke-free dining’ without problems.

Kaua’i restaurants can have the same results if a bill favoring a full smoking ban goes into effect, speakers said, and that the Koke’e Lodge restaurant, Casa di Amici and Brick Oven Pizza, already offer smoke-free dining facilities.

The Kaua’i bill has to be amended and passed to protect people from the hazardous health effects of second-hand smoke, many speakers said.

“Make no mistake about it, second-hand smoke is perhaps the number one public health issue on Kaua’i today,” said Charles Roessler, the neighbor island community coordinator for Tobacco-Free Kauai.

Lum said “every time someone lights up a cigarette near you, they are potentially harming your health.”

Lum noted that:

– More than 400,000 Americans and 1200 people in Hawai’i die each year from tobacco-related causes.

– In Hawai’i, cigarette smoking causes more premature deaths each year (before the age of 65) than the combined causes of death related to AIDS, drug abuse, alcohol, motor injuries and drownings.

– The Environmental Protection Agency has classified second-hand smoke as a carcinogen.

Cathy Shanks, Kaua’i division director for the American Heart Association, said that cyanide, arsenic, formaldehyde are just three of 4,000 chemicals and 43 carcinogens found in second-hand smoke.

Marge Freeman, a maternity nurse at Wilcox Hospital, said pregnant women who smoke are at risk. She said smoking by mothers accounts for

– 10 percent of all infant deaths.

– 20 to 30 percent of all low-birth babies.

– Up to 14 percent of pre-term deliveries, with accompanying problems.

Karen Iwamoto, government affairs director for the American Cancer Society, Hawaii Pacific Inc., stressed that “non-smokers should have greater protection from second-hand smokers, particularly in restaurants.”

There are restaurant employees who are parents with children, Shanks said. Should the parents become sick from second-hand smoke or die from it, “the consequences obviously to the family are devastating,” she said.

JoAnn Yukimura, a former mayor of Kaua’i and a candidate for the Kaua’i County Council this year, said people can chose to smoke as long as their habit doesn’t harm others.

Yukimura said the bill and amendments that could be adopted “would ensure that such harm is not allowed to happen in public places.”

The Kaua’i Filipino Community Council also voiced its support for a bill that bans smoking in restaurants.

Angel Acorda, the president of the group, said 27 percent of all Filipino males smoke, a rate that is the “highest in the state compared to other ethnic groups.”

Staff Writer Lester Chang can be reached at mailto:lchang@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 225).

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