USA Today has a report on Hawaii’s new law that bans smoking in all public places such as restaurants, bowling alleys, malls as well as from curb to cabin at airports. The law has expectedly provoked a chorus of unfounded protests from the tourism industry and hotels in particular. It was not so long ago that New York’s Mayor, Mike Bloomberg, implemented a ban on smoking in the Big Apple’s bars restaurants amidst howls of protests from restaurateurs and hoteliers most of whom foretold the death of their enterprises. That nothing of that sort happened and tourism in fact has never been as robust despite the ban does not make news. Hawaii’s ban and the response is deja vu for those who are following the debate. But then again, for most New Yorkers what happens in New Jersey intersts them little – what happens in distant Hawaii is even less likely to interest them. It would be nice though if Hizzoner and some of New York’s advocates for the ban at home pitched in with stats to show that Hawaii’s tourism industry has little to fear from the ban and the public health benefits, not to mention the happiness quotient of non-smokers are exponentially greater than any putative loss in tourism from smokers staying away.
Incidentally, the notion that Japanese tourists will take their dollars (and their smoke) elsewhere borders on the absurd. The Japanese are quite capable of taking into account local mores and refraining from some of their obnoxious (and illegal) practices, such as the Japanese male obsession with young school girls, while abroad. The bartender from the Sheraton in Waikiki has only to talk to his counterpart in any one of the bars in Manhattan to find that Japanese clientele here has endured and grown much like any other.