Going Smoke-Free

Good for the Public's Health and Safe for the Bottom Line

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has concluded there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke, the third leading cause of preventable death in America. To reduce exposure to secondhand smoke, thousands of municipalities in all 50 states have enacted smoke-free workplace policies. In 2005, the state of Georgia joined their ranks with the passage of the Smokefree Air Act. However, Georgia’s law allows smoking to continue in select locations, including bars and restaurants that do not serve minors under 18. As a result, many workers and citizens in Atlanta and elsewhere in Georgia still face the dangerous health threat of secondhand smoke.  Legislators exempted bars and restaurants primarily because of concerns that smoking restrictions would drive customers away. However, studies in hundreds of locations around the country have found that these fears are simply unfounded. Smoke-free laws have no negative effect on business at bars and restaurants—and in some cases even help. Atlanta should join the ranks of American cities with strong ordinances restricting smoking in all places of employment, including bars and restaurants. A strong smoke-free workplace ordinance will safeguard the health of Atlanta’s workers and public, without harming local businesses. Scientific studies consistently demonstrate that bars and restaurants are unharmed by the implementation of smoke-free workplace ordinances. • 100 percent of well-designed, peer-reviewed studies of smoke-free workplace policies published between 1989 and 2005 show that going smoke-free has no negative impact on sales or employment in the hospitality industry. In a number of cases, business performance improved after the transition to a smoke-free environment. Restricting smoking at bars and restaurants does not reduce revenue or force closures. • El Paso, Texas, required restaurants, bars and mixed-beverage establishments to become smoke-free in 2002. In a statistical analysis that controlled for inflation and seasonal variability, Going Smoke-Free the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention detected no change in revenues in the following year. • Florida enacted a state-wide smoke-free workplace law in 2002. In the following months, Dr. Chifeng Dai at the University of Florida documented a 7.4 percent increase in gross sales among restaurants and catering services, after accounting for changes in population, income and the economy. Smoke-free policies do not adversely affect employment in bars or restaurants. • After Florida’s 2002 smoke-free law, a University of Florida study showed that state-wide hospitality employment climbed 4.5 percent after controlling for population, income growth, inflation, underlying economic conditions and for seasonal business variation. • New York City reported a gain of more than 10,000 restaurant and bar jobs in 2003, the year after its smoke-free law went into effect. • After restricting smoking in bars and restaurants in 2004, cities in Kentucky and Massachusetts reported no change to restaurant and bar employment. Local smoke-free regulations do not hurt local businesses. • Workers in restaurants and bars in Lexington, Kentucky—where officials restricted workplace smoking in 2004—earned just as much pay after going smoke-free as before. Employment levels stayed consistent, and most customers did not travel to do business in other areas of Kentucky without smoke-free policies. • Wisconsin’s Dane County, home to the state capital of Madison, enacted a smoke-free ordinance in 1992, at a time when the majority of the state permitted workplace smoking. Over the next five years, tax receipts from restaurants in Dane County increased faster than the state average. Smoke-free policies save money for businesses. • Business owners who permit smoking in the workplace bear elevated health care and worker’s compensation costs. Asthma related to secondhand smoke alone costs the United States $773 million each year in direct medical expenses— costs borne in part by business owners. Studies that claim smoke-free ordinances harm business are likely to suffer from poor design or conflicts of interest. • Dr. Michelle Scollo at the VicHealth Centre for Tobacco Control in Australia reviewed all published studies on the economic impact of smoke-free policies in 2003 and again in 2005. She found that studies claiming negative impacts were 20 times more likely to have no peer-review than studies showing positive or neutral economic impact. These studies tended to use subjective, anecdotal and scientifically questionable measurements to reach their conclusions. • Moreover, 100 percent of studies claiming negative impact were funded by groups with ties to the tobacco industry, which has a clear financial stake against smoking restrictions. Atlanta should adopt a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance for all places of employment, including bars and restaurants. • According to the U.S. Surgeon General’s office, eliminating smoking from the workplace “is the only effective way to ensure that exposures are not occurring.” • While the Georgia Smokefree Air Act allows smoking to continue in select workplaces, it does not prevent local governments from enacting stronger smoke-free policies. • Atlanta should follow the lead of other major cities across the U.S., including Houston, Miami, New York, Baltimore and Chicago, by enacting a comprehensive smoke-free workplace ordinance. • The ordinance should apply to areas exempted under the 2005 Georgia Smokefree Air Act, including bars and restaurants that do not serve or employ people under 18 years of age (even those with separate ventilation systems), outdoor areas of employment, long-term care facilities, all hotel rooms, and areas of the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.  


Good for the Public’s Health and Safe for the Bottom Line

Georgia PIRG Education Fund