Police Chief: ‘We’re not the tobacco police’

By Charles Sercombe

On Saturday, smokers will no longer be able to light up at bars and restaurants.

But if smokers decide to snub the law and continue their habit in the bars, don’t expect the Hamtramck police to enforce the new legislation. That’s the word from Police Chief Mark Kalinowski, who said the new state law will be enforced by the state or local health departments.

“We’re not the tobacco police,” he said.

But there is a catch. If a manager of bar tells a customer to put out their cigarette and refuses and if the customer is told to leave and then refuses, that’s when the cops will come in. Kalinowski said the uncooperative customer could be cited for trespassing and being disorderly.

But if a bar owner doesn’t mind if his customers smoke and a cop happens to walk in, Kalinowski said the only action the officer would take is to tell the owner about the law. The state department of health could, however, investigate if a complaint is filed and a bar could have its license revoked for ignoring the law.

The law has been met with mixed reactions from bargoers. Detroit and Hamtramck are generally known for being hardcore smoking towns. The law has also come under criticism from Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson who threatened to file a lawsuit to stop the law.

Although it seems like there is little enforcement teeth written into the law, Kalinowski said he believes people will obey.

“People used to be able to smoke in grocery stores and theaters and they stopped,” he said. “I think after a couple of months people will stop.”

In the meantime, a number of area bars, including the Belmont on Jos. Campau, are holding a “smoke out” on Friday night, the last night you can light up.

After that, bars will be required to remove all smoking-related items, including ashtrays and matches. As they used to say in the army, “smoke’em if you got’em.”

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