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by Michelle Rivera, student writer

Since the anti-smoking law went into effect on Nov. 16, it has received mixed responses from the public over its effectiveness.

Smokers are annoyed at the inconvenience and non-smokers have an issue with the lack of enforcement. The law, which requires smokers to stay clear of entrance ways and windows by at least 20 feet, gained much support with the anticipation that it would minimize secondhand smoke and encourage less smoking, or better yet, encourage quitting altogether.

In the few months after the smoking ban was passed, many feel that it has done little to serve its purpose. On HPU’s downtown campus, students observe that Fort Street hasn’t changed much. Most think that the law is a good idea, but their concerns are that it isn’t producing the results that it should.

“ It’s not very effective. People aren’t smoking less and they try to hide regardless,” said Joanne Corpuz, 20, an advertising student from ‘Ewa Beach.

Sitting in the round area near the bike racks, which is the usual smoker area, Corpuz wonders about the measurement of the law.

“ How can they really tell anyway,” she said, pointing to the red-brick building across from her. “I mean, people just stand by the trash cans. You can see everyone in groups bumming a smoke.”

Commenting on the positive aspects of the smoking ban, some nonsmokers express consideration in the restrictions it has on smokers.

Bernadette Bonus, 21, a justice administration student

from Salt Lake, said that it seems to help even though it’s hard on the smokers.

“ It’s good for people who don’t smoke when you’re in clubs or bars, but it’s unfair to people who do.” Bonus made a point to say that it is better in store-front areas, but “there are still people smoking when they walk down the street.”

Corpuz agrees that it is positive for nonsmokers in certain places.

“ At least I can study at a Starbucks without smoke around,” she said smiling, “and I can go to a club without having to smell like smoke.”

Others, like Lisa Kehmeier, 22, a psychology student from Honolulu, share the same feeling on the effect of the smoking ban.

“ Yeah, it’s definitely better at clubs,” said Kehmeier, “I used to have to take like five showers to get rid of the smell!”

Despite the relief, Kehmeier says she doesn’t feel much of a difference and that the law doesn’t really affect smokers, but only irritates them because the police don’t enforce it.

The penalty for getting caught: anywhere from $50 for individual violations up to $500 for each additional violation after two offenses.

“They might think the law is more harsh than it is,” she said, “but they’re dealing with it.”
In terms of business, students feel that the law helps health but hurts some businesses.

“ The law is a good change for nonsmoking customers and employees,” Corpuz said as an employee at Jamba Juice, “but it may be negative for business and a hassle for smokers.”

Corpuz explained that Jamba Juice employees that wish to smoke not only have to step outside; they have to take off their uniform. Work places are becoming strict on smoking policies since the law; however, 41 percent of businesses still allow smoking according to the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Hawai‘i.

Richard Gonzales, 30, an advertising student and avid smoker from Waimanalo, laughed at the inability of the law to stop even those who passed it.

“ People who passed the law are still smoking right under the dome,” said Gonzales, who also works at the State Capitol. “They wasted hours voting on it because they can’t even follow it.”

Roughly 17 percent of people in Hawai‘i smoke, which is the fourth-lowest rate of adult smokers in the nation, according to the state Health Department. Gonzales represents that small group, expressing their outrage that lawmakers were not thinking about smokers when they passed the law.

“ It’s just stupid,” he said shaking his head. “You have to leave the building . . . it’s very inconvenient.”

Gonzales feels that the law doesn’t minimize anything and that you can’t avoid the smoke either way.
“ People still smoke five feet away, and there is still secondhand smoke when people are just passing by,” he said, adding that people need to be responsible for their own health.

“ I’ve always had consideration for nonsmokers,” said Gonzales. “I just don’t stand by them. It’s common courtesy.”

So what’s the next step for a healthier Hawai‘i?

“ Enforce [the ban] more,” said Kehmeier, “and make more areas accessible for smokers.” “Raise taxes on cigarettes,” added Bonus. “That might get people to stop.”

Whatever happens next, the smoking ban seemed to be a good starting point. Hawai‘i is the 14th state to enact a law against smoking in public, and it is making some impact. Now it’s a matter of making it work.

 

 

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