Blowing Smoke

A New Report Refutes Decads-Old Argument that Smoke-Free Policies Hurt Business

Georgia PIRG Education Funda

ATLANTA- A new report released today by the Georgia PIRG Education Fund finds that 100 percent smoke-free ordinances protect public health and sustain local business. The report, Going Smoke-Free: Good for the Public’s Health and Safe for the Bottom Line, considers the impact smoke-free policies have had in cities such as Boston, Houston, and New York City, and finds that businesses in these areas continue to thrive.

“The evidence is in that smoke free policies protect our health,” said Jenna Sasanfar, program associate with Georgia PIRG Education Fund. “Often some business association will counter that smoke-free policies hurt the financial bottom line, but our research shows they’re just blowing smoke.”

Specifically, the report found that:

• Businesses continue to thrive and revenues remain consistent after implementing smoke-free workplace ordinances
• Smoke-free policies can save businesses money in terms of health care costs and worker productivity
• Studies claiming smoke-free ordinances harm local business were funded by groups with ties to the tobacco industry

The Georgia Smoke-Free Air Act, which currently regulates smoking in the the state, contains loopholes that permit smoking in certain workplaces including bars, some restaurants, and outdoor areas of employment. Stronger local ordinances can be passed to address these loopholes, and the City of Atlanta has the capacity to pass such legislation.

There is a resolution before a committee of the Atlanta City Council, introduced by Council Member Jim Maddox, calling for the creation of a task force to consider the issue of smoke-free policies here in Atlanta.

“Considering the impact that going smoke-free has had on businesses in other cities, there’s no reason why Atlanta should not fully embrace this public health policy now,” said Sasanfar.

A poll released on August 31, 2009 by the Smoke-Free Atlanta Coalition found that 95 percent of Atlantans believe secondhand smoke to be at least a minor health hazard, while 61 percent of Atlanta voters believe it to be a major health hazard.

“Secondhand smoke is a community health issue for the people of Atlanta and those who visit our city,” said Eric Bailey, a representative of the American Cancer Society. “Comprehensive smoke-free legislation would protect all workers and patrons from serious health risks attributed to secondhand smoke exposure. Other major cities that have passed 100 percent smoke-free air ordinances have not seen any negative impact on their businesses.”

The Maddox resolution is currently before the City Utilities Committee of the Atlanta City Council.