"There is no nonsense so errant that it cannot be made the creed of the vast majority by adequate governmental action."
     - Bertrand Russell

The Numbers


Smoking Bans
And Businesses

Odds and Ends


Studies on the Economic Effects of Bans

Anti-smoker activists claim smoking bans are good for business. They claim their studies prove it. This page examines how they concoct their numbers. We won't be dissecting any one study, instead we'll give you the tools to pick apart any study funded by anti-smokers.

Fact: Bans affect some business much more than others.

Obviously, a business that already prohibits smoking isn't going to be affected at all by a ban. These include delicatessens, bakeries, fast food chains, and take out places. Take out places usually benefit from ban, because they are patronized by smokers who decide to stay home. Anti-smokers usually include these unaffected businesses in their studies.

Smoking is less common among the wealthy, so bars and restaurants catering to an upscale crowd aren't nearly as affected as places with a working-class clientele. (Some taverns report 80-90% of their patrons are smokers.) Small town diners, where people like to hang around and chat after a meal, are also hurt by bans. The economic differences between upscale and working class palaces gives the nanny's studies a particular advantage. If a small diner loses $200 dollars a day, it may represent a 50% loss for their business, while an upscale restaurant can make up that difference with a single meal.

Fact: Studies funded by anti-smoker groups usually include places that are not at all affected by bans, as well as those where the effect is minimal.

The most important part of any hospitality business is location, location, location. When the smoking ban was issued in New York, bars near the borders of smoker-friendly states saw their smoking customers, along with the smokers non-smoking friends, make the short trip to New Jersey or Pennsylvania so they could enjoy themselves without being harassed. Border bars in those states are reporting record profits, while many NY taverns near the border closed down for lack of customers.

Bingo Halls usually report losses of 50% or more due to bans. Many have closed. Bingo is a very social game. People go there to hang out with their friends as much as they do to play the game. Many patrons simply don't go if they can't smoke and are turning to online bingo. As a result, charities depending on bingo profits have to cut back on services, and sometimes eliminate them completely.

Referring to the effect of smoking bans, Dan Plonka of Bingo Caller Magazine said, "Some organizations have completely lost every single penny of profit--their losses have been over 100 percent. Other organizations are down about 10 to 15 percent; most are down about 50 percent of the profits."

Don't look for bingo halls in the anti-smoker studies - you won't find them.

Bowling alleys are also ignored in most of these studies. They have a unique problem - shoes. A smoker can't just step outside for a smoke while wearing bowling shoes. They'd have to change their shoes twice each time they wanted a cigarette. Most of them won't bother. Laurel Bowl, in San Luis Obispo, CA, had been successful for thirty-four years before California's statewide ban. Three Hundred and Eighty-five league bowlers quit because of the ban, which cost the business $200,000 in annual revenues. The place struggled along for another year, then closed it's doors.

Distributors, those who supply been and liquor to bars and restaurants, often report severe losses. They, too, are ignored in studies.

Pool Halls don't usually serve much food or alcohol. They're left out of most studies as well, even though their losses are usually severe.

Business that sell and service air cleaning units are affected. If there are no smokers, there's no reason to buy an air cleaner. If the bar has already purchased one, there's no need to turn it on, or to have the filter changed.

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Business that market and maintain vending machines in taverns are also affected. Pool tables, dart machines, juke boxes and video games, and, of course, cigarette machines, experience a decrease in business in direct proportion to the decrease in the establishment's customers.

Fact: I've examined many studies by funded by anti-smoker groups. Every one completely ignored bowling alleys, pool halls, bingo parlors, and other businesses that are heavily impacted by bans.

Virtually all of the studies on economic impact have been conducted by anti-smoker groups, or governments justifying their laws. But in 2004 The Empire State Restaurant and Tavern Association funded a study that was conducted by Ridgewood Economic Associates. It concentrated on small, independent taverns. They found that bars and taverns in the state have lost about 2,000 jobs, $28.5 million in salary payments and $37 million in gross state product. The response of the anti-smoker groups was predictable: they claimed that The Empire State Restaurant and Tavern Association was a front for the tobacco industry. This is a blatant lie.

Fact: Studies funded by anti-smoker groups achieve their numbers by

  • Including many business which are not affected by bans
  • Under-representing business that are the most impacted by bans.
  • Excluding many of the business that are most devastated by the bans (Bingo Halls, Pool Rooms, Bowling Alleys, Distributors, etc.)
  • Ignoring the issue of compliance.

Recently the anti's began touting a study conducted by Tobacco Control. It is a meta-analysis, (the easiest kind of study to fake and manipulate,) studying studies about the economic impact of bans.

They conclude only studies funded by tobacco companies show harm to business. The flip side, of course, is that only studies funded by anti-smoker organizations show bans are good for business. To put it more succinctly, the results of studies of the economic effects of bans reflect the agendas of those funding the studies. Surprise, surprise.

In closing, we offer a question to anyone supporting bans. The bar and restaurant business is fiercely competitive, and the people running venues are smart enough to do everything they can to increase their bottom line. If banning smoking really were good for their business, wouldn't they have discovered it by now, and wouldn't that make laws mandating bans unnecessary?

Additional Information:

Economic Losses Due to Smoking Bans in California and Other States. An honest look at the real numbers.


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