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
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
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
Don't look for bingo halls in the anti-smoker studies - you won't find
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
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?
Economic Losses Due to Smoking Bans in California and Other States. An honest look at the real numbers.