Smoking ban negatively affects businesses

Letter to the editor

Posted: Monday, January 05, 2004

This is in response to the article in the Dec. 24 paper about the smoking ban. In that article, Joan Cahill of the Juneau Clean Air Coalition cites a study from Melbourne, Australia, about the impact of "Smoke-Free Policies in the Hospitality Industry." The article states that the Australian report shows 21 studies showing no negative impacts on smoke-free policies in restaurants and bars. Only 21? The actual report has 100 studies. The vast majority of these studies were on non-smoking restaurants and restaurants forced to have smoke-free sections.

Here are some actual quotes from the study: "In contrast, establishments which serve beer, wine and liquor have been experiencing a steady decline in sales tax receipts since 1995" (Chico, Calif.); "average sales down 22 percent, 77 employees laid off from 54 establishments" (Ottawa, Ontario, 2001); "All but one business reported decrease in sales" (Mesa, Ariz.); and "63 percent say new smoking regs. are hurting their business" (New York). A restaurant in California showed a "59 percent loss of gratuities, [and a] ... 50 percent increase in complaints."

All in all, the report that Ms. Cahill cites is quite damaging to her cause. And Ms. Cahill says that the tobacco industry disseminates misleading information about the financial impacts of smoking in bars. I'd say they are not the only ones. The one bar I went to in California had laid off all their cocktail-serving staff, since most of the customers drink in the outdoor section of the bar where smoking is allowed but staff can't serve them. The owner of that bar told me that the smoking ban was devastating to California bars. Most bars in California have outdoor smoking sections. That's not really an option here.

The Web site where this study was found is also a virtual cookbook on how to coerce, manipulate and intimidate the public and politicians on the smoking ban issue. The Empire article also says that some Assembly members favor a smoking ban. I don't really care what they personally support. I know not one of them ran for office promising to cut jobs, close small businesses and increase tax debt. Any elected "public servant" supporting this ban for personal reasons needs to be voted off the island. Statistics aside, the fact that a smoking ban in bars would hurt sales is a no-brainer. Bars are the only place in town where smokers are not treated like trash; take the smoking away and they won't go as often or for as long. Ms. Cahill's comparison between bars and the airline industry is too silly to deserve a comment.

The Empire article ends with this quote from Ms. Cahill: "This change is just one change among a long line of changes." I wonder just what this woman has in mind for the future of our fair city.

It would be nice if she'd go after the real second-hand smoke producers like diesel fuel and coal-burning facilities, but somehow I don't think that's what she is really concerned about. With her ability to manipulate facts and studies into showing only her agenda, I'm a little concerned. Yes, I smoke and I vote.

Michael Truax

Juneau



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