Friday, June 5, 2009

Are smoking bans really bad for business?

“All of the best-designed studies that were not funded by the tobacco industry found that smoke-free restaurant and bars laws had no negative impact on revenue or jobs.”

“Almost all of the studies that found a negative economic impact of smoke-free policies had been funded by the tobacco industry.”

Both of the above statements come from the Ontario Ministry of Health Promotion web site. But, the same sentiment is echoed by the anti-smoker establishment to support smoking bans in restaurants and bars across the country and around the world.

If an economic impact study is funded by the tobacco industry, it is pronounced worthless no matter how well conceived the methodology or convincing the outcome. Those done on behalf of the hospitality industry are likewise suspect, since they are considered to be little more than tobacco industry stooges by the anti-smoker cult.

But, if only studies conducted or approved by anti-smoker concerns are considered legitimate, and only those studies are taken into account by politicians during the decision making process, then the entire process becomes little more than a charade. If only one side of the argument is heard, a realistic, unbiased assessment is impossible.

But, what about those studies done by the anti-smoker element in public health; the ones on which politicians seem to rely to provide unbiased, factual information? They’re dependable, aren’t they?

Well they’re believable, but only if you also believe in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy.

Smoking bans in the US have apparently been running into some resistance lately, with the opposition due primarily to concerns over the economic impact on bars and casinos. So, one anti-smoker group, ClearWay Minnesota, funded a study to demonstrate there was no adverse effect due to smoking bans. (Isn’t it strange how so many of their studies start with a pre-determined outcome?)

The study was conducted by the University of Minnesota, School of Public Health. The lead researcher was Elizabeth Klein, Assistant Professor, Health Behavior and Health Promotion, Ohio State University. And, by pure coincidence, the study was released to coincide with efforts in the Ohio legislature to exempt small family run bars from the state’s smoking ban.

It was released with great fanfare and bold headlines proclaiming that smoking bans didn’t hurt the bar business. But, although the purpose of the study was to assess the impact of smoking bans on freestanding bars, it included data on restaurants, thus skewing the results.

Restaurants are a far different business from bars. The former relies on sales of food and a family atmosphere, the latter depends on sales of alcohol and a hospitable environment. And, that hospitable environment, to smokers, includes being able to light up while enjoying their favourite beverage.

And there are other differences as well, as pointed out by author Michael McFadden. In a recent issue of the Smoker’s Club newsletter, he takes exception to the methodology of the study by Ms. Klein.

Says Pat Carroll, President of the Buckeye Liquor Permit Holders Association, who also believes the study was slanted: "It's obvious why it was done this way. It's to distort the truth. You can't lump bars and restaurants together. We have entirely different customers and provide different atmospheres.”

Of course, Carroll is affiliated with the bar business and therefore, according to the rhetoric of the anti-smoker cult, a stooge for the tobacco companies which makes her assessment invalid. But, a study funded by a zealous anti-smoker organization (in turn funded by money extorted from smokers through the MSA) and intended to support the war on smokers is considered unbiased and above reproach. Strange logic.

Only studies conducted or approved by the anti-smoker cult are valid, whether they deal with the science on the alleged health hazards of secondhand smoke or the adverse socio-economic effects of smoking bans. Contradicting the anti-smoker’s articles of faith, of course, is blasphemy.

But, there’s evidence that some politicians may finally be seeing through the bullshit and bafflegab promoted in the anti-smoker playbook. For example, earlier this week the Louisiana state legislature voted against a bill that would have banned smoking in bars and casino’s throughout the state.

The proposed legislation sought to extend a ban on smoking in restaurants that was implemented in 2007. Rep. Gary Smith, who introduced the measure, and supporters of the bill, claimed the amendment would create a level playing field between restaurants, bars and casinos.

A majority of Louisiana’s politicians could not be persuaded that the proposed legislation would not hurt the economy and the bill was defeated in a 29-71 vote.

The question is why bars and restaurants who honestly believe that their business will not suffer as a result of a smoking ban don’t simply make their business establishment non-smoking. Why do they need legislated smoking bans to “level the playing field?”

The answer is, they know a smoking ban will adversely affect their business. They understand that a bar which allows smoking will have a competitive advantage and they need a legislated ban to weaken that advantage.

And, the authors of the Minnesota study must also recognize the truth. Otherwise there would be no need for the deception inherent in the study.

1 comment:

Michael J. McFadden said...

The story of the Klein study continues to grow more sordid. Not only did they deliberately hide the decimation of the bar industry by burying it under the much fuzzier restaurant figures but the motivation for doing so now appears to be their grant proposal.

Check out Jacob Grier's column and aftercomments at:

and read about the $516,000 grant that funded this piece of nonsense research. Pay special attention to the parts of the grant proposal that promise their studies will produce results supporting smoking bans... before the studies were even DONE!

Michael J. McFadden
Author of "Dissecting Antismokers' Brains"