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Smoking Bans Not Bad For Business Bars Are Not Hurt By Going Smokeless, New Study Finds

Sales tax revenues from seven California cities and counties suggest that banning smoking in bars is not bad for business, says a study in the American Journal of Public Health.

The tobacco industry strongly opposes smoking bans in restaurants and bars, saying they keep customers away.

Previous studies have concluded bans do not hurt restaurant business. The new study, in today’s issue of the American Public Health Association’s journal, argues bars also are not hurt by smoking bans.

“The claim that bars will go broke just is not supported by the facts,” said Stanton Glantz of the University of California at San Francisco.

But the tobacco industry-funded National Smokers Alliance denounced the study as containing “a myriad of factual errors and misrepresentations.”

Glantz analyzed sales tax records from 1991 through 1995 for five California cities - Anderson, Davis, Redding, San Luis Obispo and Tiburon - and two counties, Santa Clara and Shasta.

Smoking bans did not hurt business in any area, Glantz concluded.

One analysis, for example, determined the fraction of retail sales that bars account for in each area. Only one city, Anderson, posted a decline after the smoking ban - the sales proportion dropped 0.7 percent. But that was well within the city’s normal business fluctuations before the ban, Glantz said.

California is poised to ban smoking in all bars on Jan. 1.

The National Smokers Alliance is suing Glantz, a well-known anti-tobacco researcher, and the university over his previous findings that smoking bans don’t hurt restaurants. The smokers alliance argues that the earlier study contains serious errors, and the group repeated that contention in its reaction to the new Glantz study.

The alliance said that one of the communities used by Glantz - Tiburon - has “too few bars from which to draw meaningful economic conclusions.” The alliance also attacked a defense of Glantz by the American Public Health Association.