Battle of the Bans Part II

Most of the opposition in the battle of the bans in Indiana has come from bars and restaurants.

Some who say smokers make up as much as 50 percent of their customers.

In Michigan, bars and restaurants will be casual observers, not active participants because the idea of banning smoking there is simply off the table.

They blow a lot of smoke at the plaza restaurant in Niles, but perhaps they are not, when they talk about the smoking ban passed a few miles down the road, in St. Joseph County.

"When Indiana had their ban, we gained business up here because of it. Because they couldn't smoke anywhere down there, decided to come up here, we've had a lot of business up here," explains Aurora Eby, Plaza Restaurant.

Berrien County gets set to roll out a proposed smoking ban of its own.

It is largely guaranteed that the status quo here will be spared.

"As far as I know, it does not affect us one little bit. The state of Michigan has in bars and restaurants going to allow you to smoke and they can't over ride that," says Mark Godsey, Joey Armadillos.

Not only is smoking in bars and restaurants actually protected by Michigan law, a bowling alley apparently qualifies as a restaurant.

According to the Four Flags Area Chamber of Commerce, many smokers have already been relegated to the great outdoors, the potential impact of the proposed ban on business appears to be underwhelming.

The push for a Berrien County ban moves forward. Even though, on the surface, that ban appears to have little potential to do much in the way of harm or good.

"The fact that bars and restaurants are not in our specific equation, does make it a little easier for us. But we certainly are interested in that at the state level needs to be changed. Something we're working on, and in fact, this, is, in a way, part of it," explains Michael Mortimore, Berrien County Health Officer.

Part of a grassroots strength in numbers strategy to get the attention of state lawmakers, who do have the power to regulate smoking in bars and restaurants.

"So our tact at tobacco free Michigan has been to work locally and create a tipping point, so locally we can all form a majority and the state will eventually follow suit," explains Theresa Greene, Berrien County Health Department.

In the meantime, any decisions on smoking in bars and restaurants will have to be made by the business owners themselves, like the owner of Schu's Grille and Bar, that went smoke free last January.

"I believe it should be the option of the bus owner proprietor to make the ultimate decision, and obviously customers will make decisions by their feet," says Larry Schuler, Schu’s Grille and Bar.

Many of the Michigan business owners, said they felt smoking would eventually be banned there. But at least it would be done by the state, affecting all businesses in all counties at the same time.

That contrasts sharply with the situation in Indiana, where bars and restaurants are being regulated on a county by county, or city by city basis, with little in the way of consistency.

In both states, we were told, the reason smoking ban battles are being fought before local governments is because efforts at the state level failed.

There, lobbying groups were simply too entrenched.

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