Workplace Smoking Ban: A Tale of Two Restaurants

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That standard question you are asked at the door of most restaurants, "Smoking or non?" hasn't been asked at the Big Boy in St. Johns in years.

In 2003, they chose to go smoke-free.

"It's been a success--one of the best decisions we ever made," general manager Dave Hunt says.

Business boomed with customers who were attracted to the idea. The backlash, he says, was minimal.

"Some people weren't happy about it, but as time went on, they came back," Hunt says. "Even to this day, 4 years later, we still get people daily saying thank you for being smoke-free."

Bar owner Mike Cheadle is quite certain his customers wouldn't say the same. His Dagwood's in Lansing is often full of smokers, who are, not surprisingly, full of opinions about a smoking ban.

"It's an adult environment. People smoke, people drink," Cheadle says.

His customer Michael Trott calls a ban contrary to the ideals of the country.

Cheadle argues stepping outside--as is the option at the Big Boy--is simply not practical in this northern state. "Michigan in winter time, you can't go out and fire up a cigarette because its 10 below zero and windy."

His says his employees know the risks and choose to come to work there, and his customers have the same choice everytime they walk through the door.

Hunt agrees that the decision should be left up to individual restaurant owners. It is also the position of the association that represents restaurants and the organization for bars.

A state House committee is considering a bill that would ban smoking in all workplaces. Testimony will continue on the topic. It could be voted on in coming weeks.

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