Monthly Archives: June 2009

Smoke-free air laws: Good or bad for bars & restaurants?

Yvonne Angieri’s OpEd, “A smoking ban would be detrimental to workers,” which appeared opposite mine in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on June 2, elicited some on-line comments from pro-smoking supporters. Bill Hannegan was among them, posting this:

“Yesterday Dr. Chad Cotti, a University of Wisconsin economist who specializes in assessing the impact of smoking bans, reviewed the St. Louis City situation with respect to a smoking ban. Dr. Cotti estimates that the St. Louis City Smoke Free Air Act of 2009 would cut St. Louis City bar employment 19.7 percent. Dr. Cotti said such a huge job loss means places will be closing, not just cutting back. I have sent his estimate to the Health and Human Services Committee. Mayor Slay’s plan to exempt the casinos will only make the situation worse for St. Louis bars, taverns and clubs. Here is a link to the 2007 research upon which Dr. Cotti bases his estimate.

I cannot vouch for Dr. Cotti’s credentials or the veracity of the study referenced above, “The Effect of Smoking Bans on Bars and Restaurants: An Analysis of Changes in Employment,” published February 8, 2007, in The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy.

However, my understanding is that the majority of studies on secondhand smoke (SHS) laws show they have little, if any, effect on either restaurant or bar business overall. To verify this belief I conducted a quick Google search and immediately found the following study which supports this thesis. Evidently the Health and Human Services Committee needs to hear from MOGASP and not just Bill Hannegan, who also continues to ignore the costs associated with secondhand smoke exposure in the workplace.

Please read the following study when you get time.

Smoking bans do not cause job losses in bars and restaurants

Published: Monday, May 18, 2009 – 10:36 in Mathematics & Economics

“New research suggests that exempting bars from community smoking bans makes no economic difference in terms of preserving bar employment, and that even the most comprehensive clean indoor air policies do not lead to a reduction in hospitality jobs. Researchers hope the findings, based on a study in Minnesota, will factor into future debates within municipalities and states considering the economic and health issues surrounding smoking-ban proposals.
The study examined employment trends over three years in eight Minnesota cities with different types of clean indoor air policies and two cities with no laws restricting smoking. Of the policies examined, some were comprehensive bans prohibiting smoking in all workplaces, while others banned smoking in most public places and businesses, but exempted bars.
Though economic effects of smoking bans have been studied in many individual communities, this is the first analysis to compare the economic effects of different levels of clean indoor air policies in multiple cities.
“In the end we can say there isn’t a significant economic effect by type of clean indoor air policy, which should give us more support for maintaining the most beneficial public health policies,” said Elizabeth Klein, assistant professor of health behavior and health promotion at Ohio State University and lead author of the study. “The public health benefit clearly comes from a comprehensive policy where all employees are protected from exposure to environmental tobacco smoke.”
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, exposure to secondhand smoke increases nonsmokers’ risks of developing lung cancer, heart disease, respiratory conditions and other diseases.
North Carolina and Wisconsin legislatures passed smoking ban bills last week. As of April 20, 2009, 15 states plus Puerto Rico had comprehensive laws in effect prohibiting smoking in all workplaces, restaurants and bars, according to the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation. Three additional states had passed similar laws, or recently added smoke-free bars to their laws, that are not yet in effect. Hundreds of municipalities also have enacted smoking bans of varying levels.
The research is published in the June issue of the journal Prevention Science.
Klein and colleagues used state-mandated reporting data to track monthly employment in full-service restaurants and bars between January 2003 and September 2006 in 10 communities. The locales were not identified, but ranged in population size from about 20,000 to 380,000 residents.
The researchers used job data from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. Using industry codes established by the North American Industry Classification System, the researchers selected jobs coded for full-service restaurants and free-standing bars to include in the study. Limited-service restaurants were not included because of the low likelihood that they would be licensed for alcohol sales, Klein said.
“We wanted to look at businesses most likely to be affected by this type of policy based on the smoking and drinking correlation that has been established in previous studies,” Klein said. “Opponents to clean indoor air policies tend to say that having a partial policy, with bars exempted, will be less painful economically for the community. They say people who work in these businesses that are dependent on alcohol sales would experience a catastrophic effect.”
In the study, the researchers calculated the bar and restaurant employment on a per capita basis to allow for the different sizes of the communities examined and the varying number of relevant businesses in each community. For each month, they combined the total number of restaurant and bar employees in each city and divided that number by the community population size based on the 2000 U.S. Census.
Over the 45-month period studied, there was relatively little change in employment levels in bars and restaurants among the communities examined. None of the changes met statistical standards required to determine that the differences – increases or decreases – were significant. The estimated changes also cut both ways in any economic argument about the effects of smoking restrictions.
For example, communities with comprehensive clean indoor air policies had nearly nine fewer employees per 10,000 community members compared to communities with partial smoking bans that exempted bars. On the other hand, communities with any type of clean indoor air policy, partial or comprehensive, had an increase of three employees per 10,000 compared to cities with no tobacco restrictions on the books.
Seasonal trends in employment were related to the effects of severe winter weather in Minnesota, especially in larger cities, and the marked loss of jobs in one community was traced to a closure of three businesses that were failing because of their location, Klein noted.
“We certainly did not detect anything close to the dramatic claims that opponents make based on the concerns that they have for bars,” Klein said. “We were not studying individual businesses. We’re studying the effect of a policy implemented at a community level.”
Klein noted that the study did not use revenue data, another strong economic indicator, because statewide reports of revenues in Minnesota were not readily available. And she said employment trends in the hospitality industry closely match revenues because hospitality businesses operate in a volatile market.
The findings are an important part of the continuing debate over clean indoor air policies, Klein said, because “once a clean indoor air policy is on the docket and discussion begins, oftentimes the conversation quickly turns to economics.”
She also said she doesn’t expect opposition to smoking bans to disappear.
“There is strong evidence that a comprehensive policy provides the greatest protection for all employees, and now it appears that bars do not need to be exempted from clean indoor air policies to protect against severe economic effects.”

Source: Ohio State University

What are we waiting for? It’s 23 years since SHS was declared a carcinogen.

An invited OpEd I wrote and submitted to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on May 14, 2009, was published today [June 2] with some edits and is reproduced below. Overall I’m happy with the editing with one exception: The three major voluntary health agencies, American Cancer, Heart and Lung, colluded with the tobacco lobby in 1987 to pass a weak state Clean Indoor Air law preempting any stronger local ordinances but that was omitted from the published text. [I’ve left this in as strike-through text below.]

My OpEd, originally 647 words but edited to 656 words, is followed by the pro-smoking counterpoint of 714 words by Yvonne Angieri, a St. Louis University student who manages two area restaurants. Her arguments echo those of Bill Hannegan of KEEP ST. LOUIS FREE and his supporters.

MOGASP Guest Editorial on-line here and reproduced below.

Indoor smoking laws: What are we waiting for?
Health: The surgeon general declared secondhand smoke dangerous 23 years ago.

by Martin Pion


On May 4, during a PBS “Newshour” report on the swine flu outbreak, Manuel Camacho Solis, former mayor of Mexico City, said about how the huge city was responding:

“It’s a simple balance: It’s the health of the people or the economy, and in a case like this the health is more important. These are extreme measures but if you can save some lives, it’s worth it.”

If you can save some lives, it’s worth it — but not when it comes to the smoking pandemic, estimated to kill 420,000 American smokers and 53,000 non-smokers annually. One of government’s primary duties is protecting public health and welfare, so why does it generally fail miserably when it comes to smoking and secondhand smoke?

“The Smoke Ring” by Peter Taylor, published in 1984, was the first book I read to shed light on this paradox. He described the interdependence of the tobacco industry, smokers and government, noting that the industry knows its product is deadly but is addicted to the enormous profits it generates; smokers are addicted to nicotine and many cannot quit; and government is addicted to the almost recession-proof tobacco tax revenues.

To counter smoke-free air laws that threaten its profits, the tobacco industry has worked to create doubt on the science of secondhand smoke and hired lobbyists to defeat or weaken smoke-free air legislation.

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. C. Everett Koop’s landmark 1986 report on environmental tobacco smoke, “The Health Consequences of Involuntary Smoking,” concluded that secondhand smoke caused lung cancer in healthy nonsmokers. The tobacco industry responded by vilifying Dr. Koop, accusing him of bias.

I have seen how the tobacco industry and its surrogates work at both the state and local level.

In 1987, Tobacco Institute lobbyist John Britton worked covertly with a Missouri Department of Health lobbyist supported by American Cancer, Heart and Lung to pass a weak statewide Clean Indoor Air law, provided it pre-empted any stronger local ordinances. The effort failed, but only when Missouri GASP played a leading role in its defeat.

In 1993, St. Louis County considered a bill making Lambert Airport smoke-free, anathema to the tobacco industry, which regards such high-profile locations as strategically important. Former councilman John Shear, chair of the Justice and Health Committee considering the bill, colluded with Tobacco Institute lobbyists to weaken the bill, which ultimately was withdrawn by its sponsor.

In 2005, Harrah’s helped defeat a comprehensive St. Louis County bill that would have included limited smoking in the Harrah’s Maryland Heights casino. Harrah’s bused in hundreds of employees to protest the bill on the night of a crucial St. Louis County Council vote. A just-released National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health report shows gaming-area employees in several Las Vegas casinos are exposed to high levels of secondhand smoke carcinogens.

These days, smoke-free air laws generally are opposed by tobacco industry surrogates, using such industry-inspired arguments as: They infringe on private property rights; drive away smokers; if you don’t like the smoke, patronize or work someplace else; discriminates against smokers; prevent the free market from deciding; interfere with businesses’ decision to display smoking or no-smoking signs; disregard that ventilation will take care of it and it should be a statewide, not local, regulation.

Dr. Koop had it right in his concluding remarks accompanying the release of his 1986 report:

“Therefore, for involuntary smoking and lung cancer: We know ETS (environmental tobacco smoke) contains carcinogens; the exposure to ETS by non-smokers is large enough to expect a lung cancer risk; and human epidemiologic studies have demonstrated an increased risk of lung cancer in involuntary smokers. If this evidence were available on an environmental pollutant other than ETS, we would have acted long ago. To fail to act now on the evidence we currently have would be to fail in our responsibility to protect the public health.”

That was 23 years ago. What are we waiting for?

Martin Pion is president of Missouri GASP [Group Against Smoking Pollution] Inc.

Pro-smoking Guest Editorial on-line here and reproduced below.

A smoking ban would be detrimental to workers
Business: Health issues might be overstated, but the potential for lost revenue is not.

By Yvonne Angieri


The ongoing national debate regarding the relative merits of banning smoking in restaurants and bars has sparked a great deal of controversy here in St. Louis as the issue has come closer to home. This issue interests me personally because, in addition to attending St. Louis University as a full-time undergraduate student, I also am a manager at two of St. Louis’ finest restaurants: Monarch Restaurant in Maplewood and Herbie’s Vintage ’72 in the Central West End.

I am not a smoker, nor do I care for the smell of smoke. But I do believe that private property owners should be trusted with the choice of whether to offer either a smoke-free or a smoking environment in their own establishments to their own clientele.

Neither do I wish to be depicted as “anti-health” or “anti-progress.” But couching the issue of “public” smoking solely in terms of public health is misleading.

I recently learned that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration itself has refused to impose a strict ban, as proposed by St. Louis Alderman Lyda Krewson, D-28th Ward. Furthermore, studies on exposure to secondhand smoke produce very mixed results. A 2003 study by epidemiologists James Enstrom and Geoffrey Kabat, published in the British Medical Journal, found no evidence that secondhand smoke causes lung cancer or heart disease. A recent multi-state study by RAND, the Congressional Budget Office and University of Wisconsin and Stanford University researchers found no link between smoking bans and a reduction of heart attacks or other serious diseases.

Besides, employers already have a means of providing clean indoor air for employees and patrons alike: air filtration. When Herbie’s Vintage ’72 opened in October, the owners installed air filtration systems in both the bar and private cigar lounge. I was pleasantly surprised by their effectiveness. After a busy night, I leave the restaurant with virtually no smell of smoke in my hair or my clothes.

The elimination of this irritation prompted me to re-evaluate my opinion of air filtration. While legal concerns keep filtration manufacturers from making health claims, their technical specifications demonstrate that their machines not only are highly effective in making indoor air cleaner than outdoor air, but they also filter out such threats as swine or avian flu viruses.

The owner of a private establishment, a “house” if you will, should have the right to offer his guests a place to smoke and to choose the most effective means of cleaning the air. Granting establishments the freedom to purify their air using effective modern technology would allow their owners the opportunity to provide a cleaner working environment for employees and achieve a harmonious balance in accommodating both smoking and non-smoking guests — as Herbie’s has succeeded in doing.

It also would ensure that employees like me are secure in a workplace that is not in jeopardy because of lost revenue that might result from a smoking ban. Loss of livelihood and medical insurance caused by closures and cutbacks surely pose a serious and immediate health risk to hospitality employees. This is a real possibility: research by Federal Reserve economists blames the Illinois smoking ban for a 20 percent decline in casino revenues and holds the Columbia, Mo., smoking ban responsible for an 11 percent decrease in bar revenues. For restaurant workers supporting families, these numbers can mean financial ruin and an actual decline in standard of living.

As a manager of a St. Louis city restaurant, I want to know that my interests and those of my colleagues truly are being protected. I am not alone in my concern. St. Louis County Executive Charlie A. Dooley, the Missouri Restaurant Association and the Independent Restaurant and Tavern Owners Association of Greater St. Louis all have opposed a city and county smoking ban in order to avert the grave potential economic damage of such a restriction.

It is clear to many people that a smoking ban would be an unnecessary and intrusive measure, one that would achieve the opposite of its original intent. Instead of protecting workers, it would hurt them. Government exists to safeguard the lives, freedom and self-determination of its citizens. St. Louis would thus do well to live up to its good name and look out for all its citizens.

Yvonne Angieri is a St. Louis University student who manages two area restaurants.