Thursday, April 21, 2005

Smoking bans do cause "significant" economic harm

Posted by Craig Westover | 12:11 PM |  

A study released on April 19 by the Fair Air Association of Canada supports the point I make in my response “Bob of the American Lung Association" in this post -- the aggregate statistics used by smoking ban proponents to show “no significant harm” to hospitality business mask the very significant harm done to specific segments of the hospitality industry.

Using Canadian government numbers, the study focused on the impact of smoking bans only on businesses classified as “bars” and “pubs.” The study shows smoking bans in several Ontario cities have had a real and dramatic impact on revenue. Bar and pub sales were reduced: 23.5% in Ottawa, 18.7% in London, 24.3% in Kingston and 20.4% in Kitchener.

Although this study was sponsored by an organization with an economic dog in the fight, the research credentials of the economist doing the study appear about as neutral as one can get. It is also significant that he used government numbers and the study was validated by an independent source.
The study was conducted by Michael Evans, Ph. D., one of North America's leading economists and a former advisor to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), NASA, U.S. Senate Finance Committee and the U.S. Treasury. Dr. Evans was also a Professor of Economics at the Kellogg Graduate School of Management. The world-renowned economist used Ontario Ministry of Finance sales and tax receipts data between 2000 and 2003 to ensure the veracity of his report. The study has been verified by Wade Cook, Ph. D, Associate Dean of Research, Schulich School of Business.

Prof. Evans concluded, "Government data clearly demonstrates smoking bans materially reduce sales in bars and nightclubs. The evidence is quite clear. To suggest that smoking bans don't have a dramatic negative impact on bar sales would be an opinion - not fact."
In light of this study, and the anecdotal evidence coming in from area bars and pubs, what smoking ban proponents are ethically obligated to address is that in order to achieve the smoke free environment that they want, their actions necessarily will cause economic harm to a group of business owners that have committed no crime, violated no law, and seek only to run their businesses in a way that satisfies those that freely choose to patronize them. In doing so, smoking ban proponents want a free ride; they offer no compensation to the owners and employees of those businesses that arbitrary imposition of a smoking ban damage.

Multiply 20 percent times the revenue of all the bars and pubs losing business in places like Hennepin County and Bloomington, and one wonders how popular a smoking ban would be if taxpayers were on the hook to compensate bar and pub owners for lost revenue.