Saturday, February 19, 2011

Bill would allow Hawaiian drinkers to smoke in bars

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There’s a move afoot at the state Legislature to allow smoking in most drinking establishments.

SB708 would create a “smoking establishment permit” that would allow patrons of bars, cabarets and private clubs to legally smoke. There are bar owners who ignore the state’s 5689853smoking ban and risk fines and penalties, but this bill would give them the right to let their customers puff away — for a price.

The cost of a permit runs from $1,000 to $3,000 and money generated would go into the state’s general fund. The bill would continue to ban smoking in restaurants with bars.

Sen. Mike Gabbard, D-Kapolei-Waikele, who introduced the measure, said he started smoking in the third grade, but quit when he was 21. He said he doesn’t like being around smokers, but said he believes customers should have the freedom to smoke while enjoying a beverage.

“It seems reasonable that if the smoking establishments put signs up to notify people, then the nonsmokers will be informed and they can decide whether they want to go in our not,” he said.

Gabbard introduced the bill at the request of the Hawaii Smokers Alliance. He said the alliance estimates that 400 bars would qualify for a permit and that 125 would actually apply for one.

This would generate about $250,000 for the state each year, he said.

There have been attempts by the Legislature to amend the state smoking ban with little success. How far this bill will go, even Gabbard couldn’t guess.

“I have no idea how it’s going to go,” he said.

Anyone who wants to offer an opinion on the bill will have an opportunity at a hearing before the Senate committees on Health and Public Safety, Government Operations and Military Affairs at 2:45 p.m. Tuesday in Room 224 of the State Capitol.

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