Smoking ban: 2 years later

Whether it's business compliance to changing personal habits, people are beginning to deal with the new normal - life without smoke.
Alex Doty
Oct 13, 2012


From the local watering hole to a place to enjoy a meal to the workplace, reaction to the state’s two-year-old smoking ban has been mostly positive.

Restaurant compliance

“On the food side, we have not issued any citations for violations of the smoking law,” said Shannon Felgner, spokeswoman for the Ottawa County Health Department. “We have followed up on two complaints with an actual site visit. However, at the visit, there was no evidence to support a violation.”

Smoking was prohibited in most public places in Michigan — any workplace and any food service establishment — beginning in May 2010. The law was enacted as a way to limit people’s exposure to secondhand smoke.

“We are not surprised that no citations have been issued,” Felgner said. “People have a tendency to police themselves.”

Violators of the law face a civil fine of up to $100 for a first offense, and up to $500 for a second or subsequent violation.

While the violation system is mostly triggered by complaints, Ottawa County health inspectors do look for signs of smoking during regular site visits.

“County health inspectors look for compliance during routine food inspections — such as the absence of smoke odor or ashtrays, and so on,” Felgner said. “Overall, it is a complaint-based system. However, if we receive a legitimate complaint, an inspector will make a site visit beyond a regular inspection.”

Compliance on the job

Michigan Department of Community Health clean indoor air specialist Orlando Todd said Ottawa County businesses have also been complying with the smoke-free air law. He said the total number of smoking complaints at businesses in the county since the state law took effect is eight.

“The first year of the law, Ottawa County had five non-food service complaints,” Todd said. “The second year, three.”

Todd said that didn’t surprise him.

“It’s not unusual, because (Ottawa County) passed a ban before the statewide smoking ban took effect,” he noted.

Ottawa County enforced the workplace portion of the law with its own workplace smoking ban beginning in January 2008. On top of the state’s ordinance, the county regulation prohibits smoking within 25 feet of any non-food public or private establishment entrances, any operable window and ventilation system intake, and in business vehicles.

Felgner said that there were no citations during the two years the county enforced its own ordinance.

“Since we already had a local ordinance prohibiting smoking in the workplace, our businesses were already smoke-free,” Felgner said. “They were already complying.”

Smokers react

Despite being a smoker, Barb Swanson of Grand Haven said she likes the state smoking ban.

“I don’t mind it at all because it seems a lot cleaner and it doesn’t smell,” she said. “I don’t go home smelling like smoke, and I don’t smoke at my own home.”

Swanson said she's noticed a big difference in the air of many previously smoking-allowed establishments, and thinks people have grown to accept the limits.

Other smokers say the ban is too restrictive.

Nunica resident Jason Helmer said businesses should bite the bullet and allow people to smoke.

“I think the business owners should pay the fine and just let the smokers do it,” he said.

Helmer said many businesses have suffered as a result of the smoking ban, and local businesses would get more customers if they were to keep smokers happy.

Business reaction

“For the first six months, we had a lot of customers who were upset,” said Bill Peak, owner of the Rendezvous Family Dining restaurant in Grand Haven. “We saw an immediate decline in sales, especially in the third shift.”

However, Peak said business improved as people got used to the ban. He said non-smokers have started coming to the restaurant that may have avoided it before, and smokers have grown accustomed to the new regulations.

“I think that (the smoking ban) has actually helped,” Peak said.

Rendezvous waitress Brea Chaffee said she's also noticed a difference in the past two years. Despite being an occasional smoker, she likes the cleaner air.

“When it first happened, business died down considerably,” she said. “Most of our regular customers are smokers, and every room in our restaurant would be packed during the day (before the ban). ... Now we are busy — busy a lot. Our diehard regulars still come in no matter what.”

Local clubs are also subject to the regulation.

“I think it is going good,” said Dean Nash, secretary of the Grand Haven Eagles. “The air is a lot better and the membership has increased.”

Nash said he's not surprised that the smoking ban is having a positive impact on membership.

“I think a lot of people didn’t like smoking, so they wouldn’t join or come down,” he said. “Even the smokers like it better. I think that everyone likes it.”

A nuisance?

Some businesses, however, are reporting a nuisance associated with the ban — loitering and littering.

Nikki Schroeder, owner of Santo Stefano Del Lago, 12 Washington Ave., said the inside-smoking ban has brought people from downtown bars and restaurants to litter and smoke in the vestibule next to her store. She said there is a sign warning people not to hang out and smoke in the area, but there are still about a half-dozen people who crowd in the area at a time during weekends and at night to take a smoke break.

“It does absolutely no good,” Schroeder said of the sign. “I think smokers should have a place they can go, and that wasn’t thought of when they designed our new downtown.”

To deal with the problem, Schroder said they might invest in some type of gate to keep people from crowding into and littering the vestibule.

Economic impact

A recent report issued by the Michigan Department of Community Health, conducted by the University of Michigan, shows that the smoking ban isn’t having a detrimental impact on business. According to the report, there has been no significant negative effect on sales at bars and restaurants, and monthly Club Keno lottery sales, based on the smoking ban.

The economic analysis was conducted using sales tax collections from Michigan bars and restaurants, as well as from Club Keno sales. The data was evaluated from 2006 to 2011 to see whether sales were lower after the ban took effect than they would have been based on historical trends.

“It is important to note that, while some establishments saw sales fluctuations after the passage of the Dr. Ron Davis Smoke-Free Air Law, bars and restaurants as a whole were not adversely affected,” Michigan Department of Community Health Director James Havemen said.


Tri-cities realist

"People have a tendency to police themselves." So instead of creating a new law, why didn't they just let business owners and their customers decide whether to to go smoke free? And we needed a state law to tell businesses whether to allow their employees to smoke in business vehicles? George Orwell would be so proud. “I think smokers should have a place they can go, and that wasn’t thought of when they designed our new downtown.” I can't blame the Trib for that one, they are just reporting the ignorance they encounter.


Disagree.....The smoking ban is for health reasons. Second hand smoke is a health hazard. Even a baby or child that is held in the arms of a smoker (who is not smoking) is at risk for health issues. Smokers don't police themselves......just go to the beach or a parade. For crying out loud, can you people just not smoke for two or three hours?? No, you can't. Pass a law, and smokers HAVE to respect the health of others.Smokers have a place to's called HOME....And do you know why you cannot go into a store and 'pick up' a pack of cigs? They are behind a counter and you can't touch them until you pay for's because addicts (smokers) steal them.....Ouch....there is a lot of help out there for that! Get it!

Tri-cities realist

Yep all smokers are thieves (I don't smoke btw). That's like saying all women who wear perfume are too, since stores LOCK up the perfume. Nice try though. I think it has more to do with the size (easily concealed) and value of the product. And your baby scenario... Puhleaseeee.

Tri-cities realist

GHmomma, according to the link you posted, "There is no research in the medical literature as yet that shows cigarette odors cause cancer in people." So thank you for reinforcing the point I was trying to make.


I said HEALTH ISSUES......the toxic crap that comes from cigarette smoke sticks to clothing. Babies and toddlers should not be around smokers, period......if you offend some relatives, so be it. In the first few years of life a baby should be given every chance to start out healthy.


You're being ridiculous. Continuing on with your line of thought let me ask you...what about big citys like L.A. and New York? With the thousands and thousands of cars polluting the air to the point of a visible smog is that not a larger danger to a childs lungs than a bit of smoke sticking to clothing? From the way it sounds you'd like to have every child in a hermetically sealed bubble until they start school. Maybe you can get the government to pass a law making it illegal to have children anywhere but in a rural Amish community. Of course it's possible the smell of cow poop might have a damaging effect on the child also! We'll have to do years worth of studies to find out for sure though.......and no, I'm not a smoker, never have been. Get a grip. If you want to worry about something how about all the toxins in the food, the water and the air. Once you let the kid out of it's bubble what then?


Be careful, she considers herself GHmommy of the year....


I suspect she's overcompensating for the fact that that's her daughter on the right side of that pic! :-)


Snap! Ouch!

No One Special

ghmomma - it's do-gooders like you who are ruining this country. Don't advocate for more government control over my life under the guise that you want to protect me from my own decisions. I don't know of a time I was ever forced to inhale smoke unless I put the cigarette to my own lips or I freely chose to be in a smoker's presence. I'm positive the same is true of you as well. If I was as self-righteous as you are, I'm sure I could find more than enough vices in your life to warrant my making decisions for you. The difference between you and me is that I love to be free of tryranny. Now go HOME and mind your own business.


you obviously weren't raised by parents who were smokers. Mine subjected me to enclosed second-hand smoke every day of my first 17 years, and both died from smoking related diseases. You want to smoke and kill yourself, do it in your own car or house. Not around me when I am eating or drinking or shopping. Smokers couldn't police themselves, hence the law. Abuse of a 'right' is what creates laws. Now go home and smoke around your kids.


43, you and I don't agree on many things but your spot on ...We the 75% have the "RIGHT" to not be subject to smoke "AT ALL". Remember the smoking sections???, WHAT A JOKE!!! Smokers said it worked, someone forgot to tell the smoke.

Isn't eating dinner out or going to the Eagles great, NOW!?!?!?!?!?


We would not need government control if people could "police" themselves. Everywhere you go, butts! Everytime I drive somewhere, butts flying out of car windows. The litter is unbelievabel, and smokers don't care about it. As soon as the butt leaves the finger tips, it is out of mind and conscience!
Before this law, there were numerous times I was "forced" to breath second hand smoke in retaurants. I did not go to the Tip-a-Few, or very many other bars because of the smoke. It stinks, and is a known carcinogen. There are even comments here where smokers won't smoke in their own home but everywhere else.
People have proven time and again they cannot "police" themselves! There is very little concern for others in this country. The cigarette butts is just one example.
Every place I go now, has more business than they did before. How can you cater to less than 25% of the population at the detriment to those that don't smoke and then not expect the vast majority to feel free to come in now that the minority can't smoke? Not logical.


My opinion, & i AM totally with u on your comment. It should be up to the owners of the establishment. I don't think that it should be up to the government. & one comment that was made that wasn't put in this article was that instead of punishing smokers why can't we have a private room to smoke in, i happen to know of a bar that has this in the state of Michigan & from my understanding it has benefited the company big time! Because with having a private room to accommodate us smokers just might help & benefit EVERYONE!!!!!


NOW, we have to benefit EVERYONE!!! after decades of gagging on peoples smoke...I think not. And your bar is breaking the "LAW" because their is "NO" provision in the law for a "SMOKING ROOM". AS for your "PRIVATE ROOM", remember the smoking sections???? What a joke!!!! The smoke didn't know it was suppose to stay in that room or section.


Tri-cities realist

Isn't there a provision in the law that allows smoking cigars if that is the primary business, or am I mistaken?


I wish they would ban smoking in the casinos as well. People are stupid. The people that smoke there don't care if the smoke is going other peoples' face.


OMG! you said stupid!

Tri-cities realist

Funny how the Indians, oops native Americans are more free from the intrusion of our govt. I guess they are having the last laugh.

Say No To Tourist's

Nice pic, the girl on the far right of the picture is clearly less than 25 feet from an entrance door with a cig in her right hand.......


Ya know, it is a very nice picture, considering i AM the girl with a cigg in my hand, standing within 25 ft. of the door. However my opinion is it should be up to the owner of the building. But i am sure you never did one wrong thing in your life right!?!?!?

Say No To Tourist's

The county regulation prohibits smoking within 25 feet of any non-food public or private establishment entrances, any operable window and ventilation system intake. Sure I did plenty of wrong in my life.......except YOUR the one breaking the law in the pic. Carry on Troll.


Ya know....before you admitted to being that girl in the picture I had looked at it and thought...."wow, not only is this girl poisoning her lungs, she's probably mutilated her god-given body with tasteless, garish images (assuming that part of course as the image was taken out back of the tatoo parlor) and after reading the crass, classless sentiment on your sweatshirt I couldn't help but make the assumption that you're just another lost child using smoking to make yourself feel grown-up and copping an attitude instead of trying to build a personality of substance. I'd like to ask ya a couple questions, but I'm pretty sure I already know what the answers will you realize the image you present to people who don't know you? Do you care about yourself and your life? You need to wake up, take a look around and decide what's important and it'd be better to do it while you're still young enough to minimize the damage. There's much more to life than hangin' out with yer buds behind the tatoo parlor, smokin' a cig, killin' time and yes, I do know a bit about wherefore I speak. Good luck finding a positive path.


i happen to know that you AsheKay1989 are PREGNANT. why on earth would you be smoking? ignorant people....


Right on cheetah! It disgusts me to see idiotic people who are too selfish to even quit smoking for 9 months for the sake of their unborn baby.Yuck.


What a fine looking group of individuals... So, who peed in your gene pool?


Hey, come on that's a low blow.


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