One of the largest studies to date on the economic impact of smoke-free laws, recently published in the scientific journal Preventing Chronic Disease, provides powerful new evidence that such laws do not harm the restaurant and bar industry, even in regions with high smoking rates.

These findings came to light just weeks after the Township Liquor Industry Association (TOLIA) denounced new regulations that is expected to come into effect later this year that will ban smoking even in outside smoking areas, claiming that it will be detrimental to their businesses.

However, anti-tobacco groups claim that the tobacco and hospitality industries have used the same excuse when other smoking regulations were introduced, but it has never realised.

“The evidence is clear that smoke-free laws protect workers and customers alike from the proven dangers of secondhand smoke without harming business,” said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

The new study analysed economic data from 216 smoke-free cities and counties across nine US states.

The study found that smoke-free laws did not have an adverse economic impact on restaurants or bars in any of the states studied. In one state, West Virginia, the local smoke-free laws were actually associated with a small increase in restaurant employment.

The new study’s findings are consistent with those of other studies, all of which show that smoke-free laws at worst have a neutral impact on the restaurant and bar business and may even have a positive impact. 

“These findings highlight why the public, policy makers and media need to be leery of adverse economic claims made by opponents of smoke-free laws. These claims are discredited time and again by impartial economic data,” said Myers.

Secondhand smoke contains more than 7 000 chemicals, including hundreds that are toxic and at least 69 that cause cancer. Secondhand smoke causes heart disease and lung cancer in non-smoking adults and respiratory problems, sudden infant death syndrome, low birth weight, ear infections and more severe asthma attacks in infants and children.

The study was conducted by RTI International and supported by the CDC Foundation.