The decision did not come easily for the Chapman’s because they suspected it would upset some of their current customers. “What we’ve found is that even smokers appreciate a smokefree environment when they are out to eat,” said Sharlyn. “Our business has not gone down—in fact, business is up since we went smokefree.”
The restaurant’s employees are especially happy to be working in a smokefree environment. “Before our new smokefree status, our employees were basically inhaling secondhand smoke for their entire shift,” said Sharlyn. “It just wasn’t right and we knew we had to make a change.”
“Food service workers appear to be 50 percent more likely than the general population to develop lung cancer,” said Teresa Sington, who coordinates tobacco control programs for the Health Department of Northwest Michigan. “It’s because many of them are exposed to secondhand smoke on the job.”
Sington is currently working with several other restaurants in the Health Department’s four-county service area to implement full-time smokefree policies. “Encouraging smokefree workplaces is one of our strategies to reduce the number of deaths in the Health District from tobacco use,” she said. Michigan Department of Community Health estimates that 24 non-smokers die each year from the effects of secondhand smoke, Sington said.
A Health Department clean indoor air regulation is currently in place in Antrim, Emmet, and Otsego counties, assuring smokefree air for employees of most business. According to state law, these types of regulations cannot include restaurants or bars. “We are optimistic we’ll have a statewide ban on smoking in restaurants in the next few weeks. A bill is working its way through the state legislature right now,” she said. “We want to see Michigan join the other states with smokefree restaurant laws.”
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. For additional information about smokefree restaurants, call Sington at 231-533-1012.