It’s been nearly 10 years since the Dr. Ron Davis Smoke Free Air Law went into effect in December 2009. It made it illegal to smoke in bars, restaurants and work places in Michigan. Casinos were an exception.
At the time of the state ban, local bars and restaurants had mixed reactions.
Mardell Landis, the former owner of The Fireplace, reported a shifting clientele — more families, more food, less alcohol and less Club Keno. Current co-owner and manager Joe Gilbert said he wouldn’t go back to the old days. He said he does have guests who go outside to smoke.
Times readers reacted positively when asked about the ban on Facebook. “Best law ever,” Judith Montgomery Brooks said. “And I was a smoker. Public spaces are so much better to visit now.”
“I remember smoky bars, restaurants and bowling alleys,” Patti Zerull Hunt said. “We stopped going because the smoke was so bad you couldn’t breathe and your clothes smelled, too.”
Michigan is among 26 U.S. states that have enacted smoking bans on bars, restaurants and workplaces.
Lynn Sutfin with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) said there was a reduction in asthma hospitalizations following the passing of the law. “There was an 8-percent reduction in the population-wide rate of asthma hospitalizations in the 12 months after the implementation of the Smoke Free Air Law.”
Sutfin said the reduction of 3,230 adult hospitalizations saved $48.6 million in health care costs in the first 12 months.
Air quality inside buildings, such as restaurants, went from “poor” and “hazardous” to “good” following the ban.
There are still 13 states that have no restrictions on smoking, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Examples include Wyoming, Texas and Georgia. Some states like Pennsylvania and Idaho have bans on private workplaces, but no bans on bars or eateries.
Caitlin Smith of Holly works as a bartender at Andiamo in Fenton. She’s been in the bar and restaurant business for seven years. She never worked when smoking was allowed. She’s a smoker, but she likes the smoking ban.
“I feel the ban is a good thing because even most smokers don’t enjoy being trapped indoors with smoke, especially when multiple smokers light up,” she said.
Smith said she’d still work in a smoking environment without a ban, but she prefers the ban, even as a smoker.
Sutfin said that MDHHS studies showed significant drops in second-hand smoke to bar workers after the law passed. “Bar employees also reported improvement in general health status and respiratory health, including wheezing, allergy symptoms, and coughing, after the law took effect,” she said.
Jason Warda owns The Barn, Fenton Pub and Ponemah Lakeside Lodge. He said he might never have gotten into the business without the smoking ban. “I think it’s been beneficial,” he said. “People seem to still appreciate not having to worry about smoke.” He said this includes smokers.
Even though he owns a bar now, he said he never liked going to the bar before the smoking ban and he never liked working in the smoking section of restaurants when he was a server.
The Laundry opened smoke free in 1997, which owner Mark Hamel said was a positive thing. “I do remember people specifically commenting on the fact that we had no smoking,” he said.
“It’s hard to imagine a world where smoking was allowed everywhere… from restaurants, movie theaters, banks, the dentist office, government buildings, etc. However, it wasn’t all that long ago.”