Evidence of Smoking Bans' Benefits Continues to Mount

Anti-smoking clean indoor air laws now apply to well more than half of the U.S. population, according to a new analysis that confirms the laws improve health and do not harm revenues of restaurants, bars, or tourism. Evidence is mixed about the impact on gaming establishments, according to "The Economic Impact of Clean Indoor Air Laws," written by Dr. Michael Eriksen, director and professor at the Institute of Public Health, Georgia State University in Atlanta, and Dr. Frank Chaloupka, distinguished professor at the Health Policy Center and Department of Economics, University of Illinois at Chicago. Their article is published in the November/December 2007 issue of CA, A Cancer Journal for Clinicians (Vol. 57, No. 6, pp. 367-378, http://caonline.amcancersoc.org).

The authors summarize many recent studies using objective measures of local, state, or national economic activity. "From small towns such as West Lake Hills, Texas, to large cities like New York, in states as diverse as Arkansas, Oregon, and Texas, the vast majority of studies find that there is no negative economic impact of clean indoor air policies, with many finding that there may be some positive effects on local businesses," they write. "While the early evidence is mixed on the impact on gaming establishments, the recent expansion of smoke-free policies to cover these venues will provide new natural experiments for researchers to examine."

The public health impact is clear-cut, with non-smokers' exposure to secondhand smoke declining after implementation for two reasons: Compliance with the laws is high, and the bans are self-enforcing, they write.

Ireland in March 2004 became the first country to implement laws prohibiting smoking in enclosed workplaces. "Although some feared that the policy would be harmful to the economy and that people would not adhere to the law, the majority of the public supported the ban, and over 26,000 inspections reported a 94% compliance level," according to the paper. In addition, there was an 11% increase in the number of customers who visited Dublin pubs after the ban." Countries that followed suit or plan to do so include New Zealand, Bermuda, Iran, Italy, South Africa, and Finland.

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