Star Bulletin
Vol. 12, Issue 261 - Tuesday, September 18, 2007

David "Kawika" Crowley

Smoking with what? No aloha in smoking ban

On the front page of the Aug. 28 Star-Bulletin, an individual was shown proudly displaying a portable ashtray with a print-on heading "Smoking with Aloha." Evidently, Hawaii Tourism Japan, the entity contracted out by the state to promote Japan tourism to Hawaii, is now handing out ashtrays to Japanese tourist arrivals. Forty thousand of them, by the way. Our taxes well spent, again. The consequences and ramifications of this ridiculous new smoking ban are getting more pitiful, dire and sadly comical by the month.

This ashtray giveaway party is just a desperate attempt to try to Band-Aid an obvious legislative blunder in hopes of winning back the favor and respect of millions of angry Japanese smokers in Japan. Good luck.

Our economy is a business. Tourism is a business. If you pass rules and laws that make your customers uncomfortable while at your business, they just won't come back. They merely find another business that treats them with more respect and courtesy. Simple as that. It's called Customer Relations 101.

To pass rules and laws that would directly affect than 20 percent of your clientele and not expect some form of consequence is ludicrous. I would venture to guess that close to half of all lawmakers have never run their own business, and know very little about marketplace cause and effect, supply and demand, and market response to legislation. So now we have nonbusiness people making strange decisions and trying to run a billion-dollar enterprise (Hawaii tourism). Mistakes will be predictable in such a situation.

No, the Japanese did not get the "wrong message" about our new smoking ban. I was raised in Japan. They're not stupid. Rather, lawmakers listened to the wrong people, then went on to pass rules and laws for their business establishment (tourism) that made a sizable portion of its clientele feel uncomfortable and unwanted. Most CEOs would get fired for such a blunder, especially if it translated into millions in lost revenue.

A billion ashtrays smothered in leis won't bring them back. Only by going back to the reasonable restrictions of pre-Nov. 16 will they even consider to return. That was just and fair to all concerned.

The sad thing is that not one political giant has had the guts to step up to the plate and admit publicly, "Oooops ... we blew it ... now let's fix it."

By the way, everybody is banking on the big potential Chinese/Korean tourist market to explode, following easing of restrictions. That should counter the dismal eight-month consecutive drop in Japanese tourism to Hawaii. Well, guess what? China accounts for one out of three cigarettes smoked on the planet ... do the math. Let's send them a couple of million ashtrays with a fortune cookie inside reading "Smoking with Aloha." No sense. They will be smoking with bucks at one of many other friendlier and cheaper destinations. Stop the bleed already ... fix it!

David "Kawika" Crowley is co-chairman of Americans for Freedom of Choice, co-chairman of the Hawaii Smokers Alliance and a member of the Hawaii Bar Owners Association.


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