A news service for the people of Michigan from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy

New Lawmaker to Save State from 'Clear and Present Danger'

State Rep. Paul Scott, R-Grand Blanc, is one of 46 lawmakers joining the Michigan Legislature for the 2009-2010 session. The new legislator's first two bills are designed to slay what he characterizes as a "clear and present danger to all Michigan residents."

House Bill 4099 would make it illegal for an owner of virtually any public facility to allow smoking. House Bill 4100 would put out of business any restaurant that allows customers to smoke. Scott asserts that there would be "no exceptions" to this ban.

The Michigan Restaurant Association, representing more than 4,500 locations across Michigan, believes that its members should set their own smoking policies so as to cater to the desires of each restaurant's unique base of customers.

"We're in the business of providing customers with choices and giving them what they want," is how former MRA president Rob Gifford characterized the matter when fighting against similar legislation in 2004. "With the growing number of smoke-free restaurants across the state in recent years, the restaurant and foodservice industry has done an excellent job of regulating itself without government interference."

Scott's media release dismissed the arguments made by these job providers as the work of "naysayers." He suggests that they could learn something by visiting a local restaurant in his district that he says is thriving because it voluntarily banned smoking so as to please its customers.

The MRA says this restaurant's decision to go smoke-free voluntarily is an example of a rapidly growing trend and is precisely why government does not need to and should not impose a ban on restaurant owners who think it might hurt their particular business.

"Since 1998 the number of restaurants and taverns that offer a 100 percent smoke-free environment has increased more than 97 percent," noted the MRA while successfully resisting a bill similar to Scott's during the 2007-2008 legislative session. "In 1998, there were 2,200 smoke-free establishments. Today, there are more than 4,350."

The restaurant owners' organization also submitted evidence showing states that totally ban smoking in restaurants have seen their sales growth projections disappoint by as much as 12.4 percent following the imposition of the ban.

But Scott believes the will of the majority has spoken and that no restaurant owner anywhere in Michigan should be allowed to cater to a smoking minority that may wish to have a few places left where they can light up when eating out.

"People overwhelmingly want this ban," notes the lawmaker. "I talked with thousands of local residents during the last few months and there is steadfast support for a smoking ban."

For additional information and an opportunity to comment on these issues, please see www.mackinac.org/10207.

The Michigan Education Association says members may leave only in the month of August. The Mackinac Center for Public Policy has set up www.AugustOptOut.org to help inform MEA members of their rights.


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