Largest Study to Date Finds State Smoke-Free Laws Would Not Hurt Restaurant and Bar Business

Researchers look at economic impact of smoke-free laws on hospitality venues in nine states
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Pierce Nelson, pnelson@cdcfoundation.org, 404.523.3509

August 1, 2013 – ATLANTA – A study conducted by RTI International in nine states concludes that statewide smoke-free laws would not be expected to have an adverse economic impact on restaurants and bars in these states. The study, which was supported by the CDC Foundation, was released today in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease.

The findings of the new analysis are consistent with the results of previous peer-reviewed studies. However, this study (www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2013/12_0327.htm) is unique in that it is the largest of its kind, aggregating all the available data from local jurisdictions in the studied states. The nine states were selected because they lack comprehensive statewide smoke-free laws, have enough local smoke-free laws to allow for an aggregate analysis, and are located in or adjacent to the Southeast.

“Our research found that smoke-free laws do not have a negative economic impact on aggregate restaurant or bar employment or revenues,” said lead author of the study Brett Loomis, a research economist at RTI International, an independent, nonprofit research institute. “Our findings suggest that a statewide smoke-free law in the states examined would not be expected to have an adverse economic impact on restaurants and bars in those states.”

Research has shown that smoke-free policies that prohibit smoking in workplaces and public places, including restaurants and bars, have a number of clear health benefits: they reduce nonsmokers’ exposure to secondhand smoke, encourage smokers to quit, improve the health of restaurant and bar workers, and reduce heart attack hospitalizations in the general population. However, some restaurant and bar proprietors are concerned that the policies might negatively affect restaurant and bar business, and these concerns can pose a barrier to the broader introduction of smoke-free environments.

“Smoke-free laws save lives, and this study is further proof that they don’t hurt business,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “Smoke-free laws make good business sense – they improve health, save lives, increase productivity, and reduce health care costs. Communities throughout the United States have made great strides in protecting workers and the public from secondhand smoke in the past decade, but too many Americans continue to be exposed to secondhand smoke on the job and in public places.”

This research, suggested by CDC and made possible by a partnership grant from Pfizer Inc. to the CDC Foundation, examined objective economic indicators, including employment levels and taxable sales, in Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia. A separate component of the project resulted in videos featuring testimonials from restaurant and bar operators in the first eight of these states. The videos can be viewed at www.youtube.com/smokefreebusiness.

“Pfizer is proud to have partnered with the CDC Foundation and CDC on this important research initiative and we are very encouraged by the results,” said Freda C. Lewis-Hall, MD, FAPA, executive vice president and chief medical officer, Pfizer. “They provide new proof that business owners can provide healthier environments to their staff and patrons without impacting their bottom line. We hope the results will advance efforts to reduce secondhand smoke in some of the areas of the country that need it most – and reduce the serious health risks it poses to nonsmokers.”
   
In eight of the nine states included in the analysis, smoke-free laws had no significant effect on restaurant or bar employment or revenues. These eight states included North Carolina, the only state in the analysis with an existing statewide smoke-free restaurant and bar law. In the ninth state, West Virginia, the analysis found that smoke-free laws were associated with a small increase in restaurant employment, and were not associated with a change in bar employment.

“We are pleased to help advance knowledge about the economic impact of smoke-free policies, which have the potential to positively impact the health of millions of Americans who work in or patronize restaurants and bars,” said Charles Stokes, president and CEO of the CDC Foundation.

Secondhand smoke causes heart disease and lung cancer in nonsmoking adults and several health problems in children, including more frequent and severe asthma attacks, ear infections, and sudden infant death syndrome. Secondhand smoke is estimated to cause 46,000 heart disease deaths and 3,400 lung cancer deaths in adult U.S. nonsmokers each year. Despite recent reductions in secondhand smoke exposure, 88 million Americans continue to be exposed to secondhand smoke annually. Learn more at www.cdc.gov/tobacco.

About the CDC Foundation

Established by Congress, the CDC Foundation helps the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) do more, faster, by forging public-private partnerships to support CDC’s work 24/7 to save lives and protect people from health and safety threats. The CDC Foundation manages approximately 200 CDC-led programs in the United States and in countries around the world. For more information, please visit www.cdcfoundation.org.