Clearing the air: Michigan makes the non-smoking grade with new bill

 By Cherie Curry

Legal News

 

Michigan has officially joined the ranks of states that prohibit smoking in public areas and the workplace.

 

Effective May 1, Michigan became the 38th state to enact legislation that bans smoking statewide.

 

The Dr. Ron Davis Smoke Free Air Law, signed into law by Governor Jennifer Granholm in December 2009, limits people from lighting up in restaurants, bars, government buildings and all workplaces. However, it will exclude certain venues from the bill, such as cigar bars, tobacco specialty retail stores, and the gambling floors of Detroit’s casinos. The law is named in honor of Dr. Ronald Davis, the late president of the American Medical Association, who died of pancreatic cancer at his home in East Lansing nearly two years ago. Dr. Davis fought tirelessly against smoking and other health hazards during his medical career, championing the fight for smoking bans in states across the nation.

 

The new law has drawn mixed reviews. Some criticize the bill as an encroachment on their personal rights and believe their ability to use cigarettes and other tobacco products in the workplace is now completely up in smoke. Others believe the bill will hinder a business’s autonomy and have a negative effect on business sales. 

 

But many welcome the smoking ban.

 

“I think it’s beneficial for our staff, especially non-smokers, so they’re not going to be exposed to second-hand smoke,” said Shelly Loiselle, who is the manager of Chili’s Restaurant on Haggerty Road in Northville.  

 

Like many business managers and owners across Michigan, Loiselle and her staff already took steps to prepare for the law. 

 

“All we plan to do is have our ‘no-smoking’ signs up and to make sure there are no ash trays and the smoking paraphernalia is removed from the restaurant.” Loiselle said, noting that the most her restaurant can do is keep customers informed about the new smoking guidelines. 

 

But if they choose to ignore the law, she said she will ask them to put out their cigarettes or leave the premises.

 

John Holmquist is Senior Counsel at Foley-Mansfield in Ferndale. He specializes in labor and employment law and represents managers.  He believes that many store managers and business owners will adhere to the new bill based on the patterns of other states, and because most already have a non-smoking policy in place. He also thinks that most employers will recognize the value of the law.

 

“It’s a health law that will make for a healthier workplace. If people view it that way, they will understand why employers will implement and enforce the law and why it will be to the benefit of employees.”

 

Although there has been some confusion over how the law will be implemented, Holmquist said the primary enforcer of the law will be the business establishments themselves. 

 

“There are now smokeless tobacco products that are available and could be used in the workplace,” Holmquist said. “Employers must decide what will or will not be allowed in the workplace. Their decisions will depend on the business policy and whether that policy is non-smoking or non-tobacco policy, or both.”

 

If employees or customers refuse to comply with the law, employers can address their problems to local health departments, or ask law enforcement officials to step in.

 

Farmington Hills Police Chief Chuck Nebus said his police department and other across the state will assist in enforcing the law.

 

“We’re not going to be the smoking police out looking for this, but we will rely on complaints. If we get calls, we may even ask the managers to enforce the law if a customer won’t comply. If the behavior escalates, at that point, we may issue some type of citation, such as for disorderly conduct,” said Nebus.

 

According to the bill, a business or individuals can receive a ticket for violating the law, with fines up to $100 for a first offense and up to $500 for additional offenses. Establishments could lose their liquor license if they continue to break the law.

 

A prospect that most businesses hope to avoid with cooperation.

 

“Being that it’s uniform, no bar is at a disadvantage. Bar owners will enforce it - those with a liquor license will have to enforce it, so all the establishments will have that pressure,” said Nebus.

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