Governor Jennifer Granholm signed a bill that prohibits smoking in public areas statewide into law today, making Michigan the 38th state to enact such legislation.

The ban, which will take effect on May 1, 2010, will apply to all restaurants, bars and other public places, though it will exclude certain establishments like tobacco specialty stores and Detroit’s three casinos.

The bill was named the Ron M. Davis Law after the Michigan Department of Public Health’s late chief medical officer, according to a press release from Granholm’s office.

Granholm, a Democrat, signed the bill in large part to protect the health and well being of Michigan’s citizens from secondhand smoke, according to the statement.

“I have long supported a smoking ban that will protect employees, patrons and citizens from the dangers of secondhand smoke,” Granholm wrote in the release. “This law shows that the health of Michigan citizens is a top priority. We will create more smoke-free environments with this law, which will lead to a healthier state.”

James McCurtis, spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Community Health, echoed Granholm’s sentiments about the bill and said the health benefits from the ban will make Michigan a more attractive state to live and work in.

McCurtis added that the ban will also contribute to economic growth in the state because patrons who dislike smoking will go to bars and restaurants more often once the ban takes effect.

“I think it will help the economy in Michigan as opposed to hurting it,” McCurtis said. “There are a lot of people, they don’t go to certain restaurants and bars because they allow smoking and because of that, these businesses are losing out on other dollars.”

House Speaker Pro-Tempore Pam Byrnes (D–Lyndon Twp.), whose district includes part of Ann Arbor, said she is very happy with the new law, which she has been advocating for in recent years.

“I’m extremely excited we’re finally able to get a bipartisan support for this long overdue legislation,” Byrnes said. “Now we can hold our heads up high and join the other states that have done likewise.”

But some legislators like Rep. Dave Agema (R–Grandville) don’t support the smoking ban because of economic concerns. Ageme said the ban will initially hinder some businesses’ revenue, though he conceded that in the long term there won’t be a great effect on the proceeds of restaurants and bars.

Agema added that he doesn’t support the ban because he doesn’t believe the government should be regulating businesses’ decisions. Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop (R–Rochester) agreed.
Though Bishop allowed the Senate to move forward with their vote on the state-wide smoking ban, he personally doesn’t agree with the new law as it should be an “individual freedom” to decide whether or not to allow smoking in one’s place of business, said Matt Miner, chief of staff for Bishop.

“It’s his personal view that it’s a private business decision as a private property right and it should be up to property owners to decide whether they should allow smoking in their establishment, and up to individuals…to decide where they should go,” Miner said.

The new legislation will hinder a business’s autonomy, Agema said, because it will ban smoking in the outdoor dining area of a restaurant or bar.

The component of the legislation that will excuse Detroit’s three casinos is unwarranted, according to Agema, as it will hurt nearby businesses that cannot permit smoking because of the new law.

“I did not like that casinos were exempted,” Agema said. “The government picks winners and losers by their legislation.”

Several businesses in the area said they would welcome the smoking ban, saying that it will help both the business of their establishments and the health of their workers.

Carmen Fernando, general manager at Ashley’s Bar and Grill told the Daily last week that the ban might help the restaurant see an increase in customers.

“I don’t think that the fact that there’s not going to be any smoking in bars and restaurants is going to keep people from going out,” Fernando said in an interview last week. “In fact, there have been some people who may not have come here before who may now be going out more to bars and restaurants in the area because there is no smoking.”

According to the release, businesses and citizens who breach the law will face a $100 penalty for the first offense and penalties of $500 each for any ensuing offenses after the law takes effect in May.

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