State Rep. Graham Filler today sent a letter to the director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services calling on the department to reconsider a complete ban on smoking at cigar bars, hookah lounges and tobacco specialty retail stores in Michigan.
DHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel issued a memo Monday stating that there is no exemption in the department’s emergency health orders allowing people to remove masks for the purpose of smoking in public lounges, even if social distancing measures are taken. The decision, which impacts more than 200 Michigan businesses, has prompted a bipartisan effort to seek clarity on the matter.
“The current order allows people to consume alcohol at a restaurant or a casino,” the letter reads. “In fact, customers are allowed to smoke in casinos. Why should the removal of a mask to consume alcohol be treated any differently than the removal of a mask to smoke a cigar? When did alcohol become a more favored product in the context of a pandemic?”
Filler said the decision is not based on any data that has been made available to either the public or the Legislature, and he is unaware of any science or data that points to cigar bars or smoking lounges as a vector for the spread of COVID-19.
“I can’t imagine why taking your mask off to smoke a cigar while sitting 6 feet or more away from others would be any different than taking your mask off to drink a beer or eat a burger,” Filler said. “Arbitrary and impractical decisions like this are a perfect example for why the governor and legislative leaders should be working together to guide our continued response to the pandemic.”
A full copy of the letter is attached.
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State Rep. Graham Filler today praised the efforts of local health care professionals who are working hard to facilitate the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine and offered helpful information for residents waiting to receive their shots.