Thursday, May 03, 2007

Illinois Licensed Beverage Association Presents Facts on Smoking Ban Impact

A complete smoking ban in a community would result in hospitality businesses experiencing a severe decline in sales, and problems with neighbors as patrons would be outside smoking and making noise at all times of the night. Many of our member businesses are located in mixed-use districts adjacent to residential buildings.

Anti-smoking groups continue to make claims that smoking bans either have no negative economic impact on bars and restaurants or they actually improve the business in these venues. If this were true, the hospitality industry would be leading the charge to pass complete smoking bans-or at a minimum, business owners would have voluntarily banned smoking in their establishments.

The economic studies conducted by anti-smoking advocates conveniently conclude smoking bans are not bad for our industry. This is logical as they include establishments that don't hold a liquor license. This is also logical as they funded the studies. What is illogical is that they discount the studies funded by our industry stating that they are biased because we funded these studies-using this same logic; their studies are biased and should be discounted as well.

The integrity of the studies cited by these groups is questionable. For example, anti-smoking advocacy groups boast of recent statistics from Pueblo, Colorado citing a dramatic decrease in heart attacks since the inception of their ban. These groups consistently point to the reduction in heart attacks in Pueblo, Colorado and Helena, Montana as incontrovertible proof that secondhand smoke is doubling the heart attack rate among non-smokers.

These two studies comprise a population base of roughly 200,000 people. However, when you look at the 70 million people that comprise the non-smoking states of California, New York, Florida and Oregon-the heart attack rate has either not decreased at all or decreased such a small amount as to be statistically insignificant.

Researchers can deliberately sift through enough small local jurisdictions with smoking bans to find a few aberrations in heart attack rates and then claim that elimination of exposure to secondhand smoke will dramatically reduce incidents of heart attacks. Please don't be taken in by misleading claims based on very select data samples.

All-out smoking bans have a severe negative economic impact on hospitality venues that serve beverage alcohol for consumption on-premise. Some people view the information from anti-smoking groups as credible when the pocketbooks of these groups are not impacted, yet the economic forecast of the industry that will be directly impacted is viewed skeptically. Again, if a complete smoking ban would benefit the businesses in our industry, the ILBA wouldn't care about this issue. Of particular concern are independent, small, family owned businesses. These businesses will fold first.

If hospitality industry businesses lose revenue, cities will also lose revenue. On average in Illinois, hospitality businesses generate 1 of every 8 sales tax dollars. Can cities, towns and villages really afford to lose this revenue?
We urge the City Councils to pass a compromise proposal to ban smoking in all public places, with some limited exceptions for bars, bar areas of restaurants, lounge areas of bowling centers, fraternal clubs and limited areas in retail tobacco stores. Concurrently, require businesses to use a uniform sticker public notification system on all entrances to inform customers of their smoking policy.

For establishments with a fair share of smoking customers, banning smoking would cripple their business. To deny hospitality business owners the right to make market-based decisions on issues that affect their bottom line is a slap in the face of free enterprise.
Patrons of bars and other hospitality venues make an active choice in entering such establishments. Those who do not wish to be subjected to secondhand smoke can choose to visit one of the thousands of venues that have voluntarily gone smoke-free. The free-marketplace takes care of itself in these matters-there is no need for draconian government intervention.

The businesses in our industry have worked very hard to achieve a compatible existence with our residential and business neighbors. This will spiral out of control when patrons are hanging outside at all times of the night creating noise and litter because they cannot smoke in the establishment.

In addition to crowds, noise and litter-a complete ban would cause other problems including creating an environment that invites underage drinking. Bars work very hard to keep underage persons from entering their establishments. An all-out smoking ban would create a perpetual revolving door situation at bars and taverns-making it nearly impossible to maintain control over the persons coming in and out the doors.

A complete smoking ban will induce consumers to spend their money in neighboring communities. Smokers will continue to smoke. The claim that a smoking ban will cause people to quit smoking is without basis in fact. The only logical comparison would be the effect Prohibition had on alcohol consumption.

The highest rate of alcohol consumption per capita in our nation's history was during Prohibition. Clearly, that experiment was a failure.

A compromise smoking ban proposal creates a comprehensive smoking ban in the vast majority of public places in communities, while simultaneously preserving the fabric of a community's personality, providing economic stability for one of Illinois' largest industries-and preserving the integrity of neighborhoods in mixed-use districts. Again-this is the logical and reasonable course to pursue in this matter.

Municipalities should allow this compromise proposal to work for a period of time. If stronger measures are warranted down the road, the Council can always re-visit the issue. This would be much more realistic than imposing an all-out draconian ban and then trying to pull it back after businesses have closed and employees have lost their jobs.