"We've received a few complaints from customers who reported people smoking in restaurants and bars, but most of the managers from these establishments just didn't completely understand the new law," said Erika Van Dam, Family & Community Health Supervisor for the Health Department of Northwest Michigan. "Once we let them know the details of the smoke-free air law, they complied immediately." Van Dam added that only one restaurant has received an additional complaint after a previous one was closed, and the Health Department continues to work with the establishment.
Van Dam said there was confusion about where restaurants and bars could offer smoking areas for customers outdoors. If food or drink is being served or consumed outside, smoking is not allowed, she said.
A report issued by Michigan Department of Community Health says local health departments across the state received 583 complaints about patrons smoking in restaurants and bars. Of the 583 complaints received, 158 citations were issued to either individuals or restaurant and bar owners. Violators of the law are subject to penalties of $100 for the first offense and $500 for subsequent offenses.
"It is pretty remarkable that the local health departments only issued 158 citations considering the number of food service establishments that are in the state," said Janet Olszewski, Director for MDCH. "The survey demonstrates that the law is truly working and people are compliant. This is good news for Michigan's restaurant and bar employees and patrons."
Van Dam said most of the feedback she's received from restaurant and bar managers about the new smoke-free air law has been very positive. "Smoke free environments are not only healthier, they save businesses money through reduced insurance and cleaning costs.”"
The Health Department of Northwest Michigan is mandated by the Michigan Public Health Code to promote wellness, prevent disease, provide quality healthcare, address health problems of vulnerable populations, and protect the environment for the residents and visitors of Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties. The Health Department has a webpage dedicated to the smoke-free air law at www.nwhealth.org/tobacco. For additional information, visit www.nwhealth.org. To report a smoke-free air law violation in Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet and Otsego counties, please contact the Health Department of Northwest Michigan at (231) 347-6014.