Friday, March 24, 2006

READER RESPONSE -- Minneapolis economic impact of smoking ban report is more embellishment and sanding of the truth

Posted by Craig Westover | 6:03 AM |  

Following the embellishments and the sanding off of the truth on the Dean Johnson story has kept me busy, and I haven’t given the pending March 31 smoking ban it's justified coverage. Fortunately there are others out there that are countering the embellishments.

First, however, lets look at the embellishments.

I’ve often accused Bob Moffitt of the ALAMN of only reading executive summaries of studies and not looking into the hard data. Well, the executive summary is exactly what he posts on his blog for March 20. And, just to make sure that no one looks at the hard data, there is no link to the actual study. No need to look for yourself, people. Bob will provide the answers.

Are there questions? Even in the information Bob posted, these two paragraphs should raise alarms. How do you get from this paragraph --
City staff who presented the report noted that these findings do not directly address the question of whether the Indoor Smoking Ordinance had a beneficial or adverse economic impact on the local hospitality industry. Many factors affect alcohol and food sales, including the local economy, the weather, and the attractions offered by entertainment venues. The study also does not take inflation into account. In addition, staff pointed out that revenues do not constitute profits, and profitability is a better gauge of business success than gross revenues.
-- to this:
Nonetheless, these findings counter anecdotal reports of a wide-ranging negative impact of the Indoor Smoking Ordinance on liquor licensees, or a deep reduction in revenues for neighborhood bars. The industry as a whole experienced a higher rate of revenue increases post-ordinance than in a comparable period in the previous year. All major commercial areas experienced increased revenues in 2005. And while two types of businesses did experience decreases in revenue, they were either almost negligible (less than 1 percent for downtown clubs) or relatively modest (4.15 percent for neighborhood bars).
Reader Dan McGrath writes:
I've taken a close look at the report, and find that the summary (which is all reporters seem to care to read) and the actual data tell two distinct stories. This lie needs to be exposed.

The most significant flaw in the report is that it lumps hotel revenues in with bowling alley food and liquor sales. This accounts for about 1/3 of all revenue examined, and skews the study like a ton of lead on the scale. Hotel room rentals (to the tune of $145,000,000) have nothing to do with bar revenues!!! If you toss out the hotel data, and adjust for inflation, the study actually shows losses in most segments, and where there are gains, they are around 1%. To top it off, the study only looks at spring/summer months. Imagine how much worse the numbers would be if they included winter data (they say they'll get around to it - maybe - if they have the resources). Oh, and 43% of all Minneapolis bars were excluded from the study. Looking at their area map, it looks like pretty much all of the "neighborhood" bars were excluded, except NE.
I’ll save Bob the time. Dan is a pro-smoke minion carrying water for “Big Tobacco” and awakes every morning with the single desire of blowing deadly secondhand smoke in the faces of little old ladies, nuns and puppies. Did I miss any steps in your logic, Bob?

That said, go look at the study itself. (And Bob, you're certainly welcome to comment on the substance of the study.) You don’t even need to understand math to question the embellishments in the brief summary. Just read the disclaimers in the footnotes, look at the map of the areas studied, and step outside and think about the difference between a “balmy” 28 degrees when the study was done and evening temps of 65 to 75 degrees when neighborhood bars set up temporary patios for smokers -- which was when the study was conducted.

Embellishments? Sanding off the truth? It’s not just and has never been just for Senate Majority Leaders.

Thanks Dan.

UPDATE: More here.