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Eye On Olympia

Thu., June 12, 2008, 11:29 a.m.

Not smoking, but apparently still drinking…

Bars and taverns "have bounced back strongly" from the hit they greatly feared when the state indoor public smoking ban took effect in Dec. 2005, according to the state Department of Revenue.

As an industry, their average growth rate was actually stronger after the ban, according to the department. Specifically, their tax reports suggest that they made 20 percent more in 2007 versus barely growing (0.3 percent) in 2006.

So...the smoking ban helped most bars? That's what proponents of the initiative predicted at the time. But alas, correlation is not causation. (i.e. Just because I put my hat on and it rains doesn't mean that my hat made it rain.) DOR says it didn't try to figure out why revenues changed the way they did.

"Perhaps patrons are just returning to their favored places because the alternatives were not as convenient," said DOR economist Stephen Smith. He said cigarette tax hikes sometimes show a similar result: a short-term dropoff in sales that picks up again over time.

Download a Excel file of the sales-tax data here.

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