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State smoking ban will impact festivals, events

February 4, 2010
Mike Modrzynski

In addition to cutting out smoking in taverns and restaurants, Michigan's new smoking ban will have an effect in some places residents might not think about.

Michigan's smoke-free law goes into effect May 1.

According to District Health Department No. 4 health sanitarian Jean Gross, the new law prohibits smoking in nearly all public places including restaurants and bars. She said the law also will have an impact on festivals and events since it outlaws smoking in traditional beer tents or anywhere beer is served.

"If beer is served, smoking is not allowed," she said. "Beer is classified as a food, and anywhere food is served smoking is now banned. That will really impact smaller restaurants and bars in our area and I can tell you that the fines will be imposed. Also, festivals or events that secure a liquor license will likely find that the sate will require compliance with the new no-smoking law as well."

She said that while tents at festival where is beer is served will be affected as the new law is written, there is talk of finding some latitude to make smoking possible in those situations.

Under the law, all businesses, including restaurants and bars, must be smoke free effective and smoking also will be banned in enclosed areas of hotels, motels and inns. There are a very restricted number of sites where smoking is allowed, but Gross said the limitations are eligible.

"If you own a business and are the only employee, smoking may be permitted," she said. "The gaming floors of Detroit casinos permits smoking and all Indian casinos are exempt form the law. Tobacco specialty shops are also exempt, but they have to meet very tight criteria to be licensed."

Patrons at local restaurants said they will adjust and do without, but will spend less time drinking coffee. Bar patrons say it's likely they will stay at home and drink, rather than go without a cigarette.

Gross said violations will be costly and could be applied to both the owner of establishment and the violator. She said the first violation is a $100 fine, the second $500, and the third could cost a license or force a closure of the establishment.

"This won't be taken lightly and I am already working with several folks, including the Nautical Festival folks, to try and find a middle ground or at least an agreeable solution," she said. "It's pretty cut and dried right now - no smoking in most public places that serve food, and that includes beer."

Gross said final enforcement details aren't real clear, but the law is very clear.

"The legislature passed the law, but left no clear path for enforcement but I intend to enforce the law," she said. "I hope to work with owners and license holders to reach agreements, but that remains to be seen."

For more information, call Gross at 734-4723.

Mike Modrzynski can be reached via email at



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