Let's make our bars emit clean air

Letter to the editor

Posted: Thursday, February 19, 2004

It has been more than 17 years since the surgeon general's landmark report on secondhand smoke. Still tobacco smoke is one of the most common indoor air pollutants.

More than 20 states have enacted some form of legislation banning smoking in public places, including restaurants, bars and shopping malls. Small business owners, often bars, have lined up against such bans, stating they fear loss of revenue. Often, the tobacco industry (directly or through front groups) perpetuates these unfounded fears, with their opposition sometimes resulting in enough pressure on lawmakers to overturn or delay enactment of such bans.

However, research into the effect of public smoking bans on tourist business and restaurant and bar sales has proven that the fears of bar owners are unsubstantiated.

For instance, Glantz and Charlesworth data (1997) in American Journal of Pubic Health and Journal of the American Medical Association (1999) "The Effect of Ordinances Requiring smoke free restaurants and Bars on revenues," demonstrated "no significant change in rate of growth of hotel revenues compared with the United States as a whole in five localities, a significant speeding in two and a significant slowing but not a decrease in two localities".

It seems clear that evidence from economic studies conducted by impartial researchers clearly proves that restaurants, bars, and hotels are not adversely affected by smoking bans.

They may, in fact, even benefit from increased business from patrons who may have otherwise visited less frequently due to concern regarding smoke exposure.

In addition to protecting the health of nonsmokers, workplace smoking bans could lead to less smoking by the citizens of Juneau as a whole and, therefore, a healthier community.

It is beyond a "freedom" or "choice" issue because smoking clearly affects us all.

It is totally inappropriate for nonsmoking workers to be exposed to these deleterious health effects that result from the decisions of coworkers and patrons.

As Maryland Delegate Barbara Flush argues: "We make our factories emit clean air. We make our cars emit clean air. Why don't we make our bars and restaurants emit clean air?" Let's have all establishments in Juneau emit clean air for our citizens now and those in the future.

Justine Muench


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