Hawaii getting used to strict smoking ban

Hawaii, known for its fresh ocean air and pristine beauty, has implemented one of the nation’s strictest no-smoking laws.

State officials say the new law will protect people from secondhand smoke, but some fear it may deter cigarette-puffing tourists from coming to the islands, especially high-spending visitors from Japan.

Barbara McCain smokes a cigarette at the beach bar of the Sheraton Moana Surfrider, in Waikiki.

Barbara McCain smokes a cigarette at the beach bar of the Sheraton Moana Surfrider, in Waikiki.

The Smoke-Free Hawaii Law went into effect Nov. 16, banning smoking in all public places such as restaurants, bowling alleys, and malls, as well as airports.

Many of the islands already had county laws limiting smoking, but lighting up now in partially enclosed areas, bars and less than 20 feet from doorways and windows is illegal.

State officials say comprehensive no-smoking laws in 13 other states and hundreds of cities have helped Americans get used to similar policies.

But some worry international visitors, especially from Japan, the largest group of foreign tourists to Hawaii, won’t immediately adjust or understand the new policies that could result in fines.

Hawaii is selling the law as a clean environment policy, not as a smoking ban, said Marsha Wienert, the state’s tourism liaison. The new rules aren’t needed to protect employees and customers from secondhand smoke.

The outdoor International Marketplace in Waikiki, featuring more than 100 souvenir stands, already posted “no smoking” signs, along with many beachside bars and outdoor hotel sitting areas. Honolulu International Airport has eliminated a designated area in the airport and will now direct all smokers to a few uncovered areas away from the building.

With the ban, Hawaii hotels can only designate 20 percent of their rooms to smokers, but a few chains, including Marriott and Westin, have already eliminated smoking rooms nationwide.

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