Smoking Ban Opponents Using Non-Relevant Study

14 05 2008

I just recieved an e-mail on behalf of the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association claiming to be “the other side of the story.”  In the e-mail, they link to a study done by Michael Pakko who is a research officer with the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.  The study, which was conducted in Columbia, MO, reached the conclusion that the ban hurts businesses.

Here’s the problem with the study.  Missouri doesn’t have a statewide smoking ban.  Columbia banned smoking on their own so you can literally drive a mile and be outside of city limits and be able to smoke.   I have no doubt that a smoking ban in one community hurts business, but you can’t compare that situation to banning smoking in an entire state.

I have sent an e-mail to Mr. Pakko asking if he’s done research on how statewide bans effect business…St. Louis is right on the Illinois border (which has a smoking ban).  Research like that would have more effect on Michigan than one done in a a single community.

Here’s a link to Mr. Pakko’s research.  This is a sad attempt at throwing sh*t against the wall to see if it sticks.

UPDATE 5:48 PM – I recieved an e-mail response from Mr. Pakko.  In it, he said he personally has not conducted a study on a statewide ban, but referred me to another study done by Scott Adams and Chad Cotti.  You can find that study HERE.

Mr. Pakko feels that the four months the ban has been in effect in Illinois is not sufficient enough time to actually study the effects.  He does mention that casino’s in the state have suffered large losses.  I would counter that by saying most of the casinos are on the Mississippi River (East St. Louis, Quincy, Quad Cities to name a few).  They all bordered states that up until recently did not ban smoking (Iowa just banned it).  The Joliet casinos are close enough to Indiana to which doesn’t have a smoking ban.  The Peoria casino is the only one off hand that I can think of that wouldn’t be effected by competition in a non-smoking state. 

Mr. Pakko also makes the argument that his study proves there is a demand for smoking venues. 

“While it is true that residents of Columbia have the option of leaving the city limits, the observation that they might be doing so is evidence that a market demand does exist for bars and restaurants that allow smoking.  Given that such demand exists, any prohibition (statewide or local) is likely to have an impact on business patterns. “

I have no hard proof of what I’m going to say next….just life experience.  To most people, smoking is the lesser of two vices.  It’s the alcohol that people go to the bars for.  The smoking is an added bonus.  If you can’t conviently go to a place that allows smoking, you’ll make the sacrafice and go outside.  I just don’t see banning smoking killing a well run business.

He also mentions non-compliance in Illinois.  I can’t argue that point as, again, I do know that from experience.  The problem is not in the ban itself or even local enforcement.  Illinois government is more disfunctional than you could ever imagine.  The legislature passed the bill.  The governor signed the bill.  The bill then goes to JCAR (Joint Committee on Administrative Rules) to write the specifics of the bill (ie. how it’s enforced, who enforces, etc).  The bill has been stuck there since January.  Now the legislators on JCAR are using it for political leverage.  Until there are rules, State’s Attorney’s can’t prosecute the case because they don’t know if they should prosecute as a ordinance violation or a misdeamonr or what.  Many police chiefs around the state have said, in public, that they will not write a smoking violation ticket unless bars are flagrantly taunting them to do so.  When you call the PD in Peoria, they refer you to the state’s 1-800 number set up to deal with smoking violations.  When you call, you get an answering machine so don’t expect a prompt response.

I appreciate Mr. Pakko promptly replying to my e-mails, but it still hasn’t changed my opinion.  I’ve lived in a state that has banned smoking and while economic impact may be unclear, I can tell you with 100% accuracy that it has improved the dining and nightlife experience.

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3 responses

14 05 2008
barowner

Has anyone noticed that all of the studies claiming smoking bans DON’T hurt bars are done by the organizations fighting for the smoking ban? If Phillip Morris conducted a study saying they were BAD for business who would believe them?
Let’s get real–people go to bars because they are the only haven left where smokers can smoke inside. No one is at a bar for their HEALTH. I can even see a smoking ban in restaurants, as most of ours seem to be smoke free anymore anyway. Once the ban takes effect, as a smoker I know I won’t be going to a bar when I want to drink. As a neighborhood bar owner–why would a smoker stop for a drink on their way home where they can’t smoke–they’ll just go home & have a drink with a cigarette there.
One of my bartenders moved to Indiana. When the smoking ban took effect her wages (tips included) were cut by more than half & she moved back to Michigan where she could still make a living.
In this economy we’re struggling to make a living now, we’re already cutting hours & trying not to lay off employees. Do we really need more unemployed people here in Michigan?

14 05 2008
Mid-Michigan Dining

I don’t know if all the studies are done by proponents of a ban, but they are used by proponents of a ban. It would be stupid for a group against the ban to use a study that favors a ban.

I understand where your coming from, but I still don’t agree. My mom is a waitress in a bar in Illinois. This is a little country bar…the only thing around the bar is a church. The closest town is five miles away. Her tips have gone up since the ban went into effect in Illinois.

The questions I would ask you is where in Indiana was she a waitress? Indiana does not have a statewide smoking ban. Like this study done in Missouri, there are individual municipalities that have banned smoking. I do believe that those kinds of bans do more harm than good for business. A statewide ban would put all businesses on a level playing field. I reject any evidence of a decline in business with local smoking bans….like I said, I don’t doubt at all that those kinds of bans hurt certain businesses. A statewide smoking ban, on the other hand, can be a catalyst for economic growth. A few neighborhood bars may take a hit and if that’s the type of place you own, I can understand you’re point of view, but the overall economy is poised to see gains.

18 05 2008
Bob

Here in Chicago, many small, local bars are ignoring the ban to keep their customers. After nearly five months, all these new non smokers who claimed they would be “flocking” to the bars don’t seem to be showing up at the bars that comply. The local cops consider a “stupid nuisance” with large groups of people congregrating outside the bars, now that the warmer weather is approaching.

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