Talking Points on the Proposed Chicago Smoking Ban

Talking Points on the Proposed Chicago Smoking Ban
January 6, 2002

Joseph Bast

Joseph L. Bast c.v. Joseph Bast is president and CEO of The Heartland Institute, a 29-year-old... (read full bio)

WHO SUPPORTS THE BAN?

1. Most seats in most restaurants are already designated nonsmoking.

2. Nonsmokers who visit restaurants and bars are not complaining.

3. The general public does not support smoking bans in restaurants.



REASONS TO OPPOSE THE BAN

4. A smoking ban would have a severe negative effect on local businesses.

5. Smoking bans elsewhere have reduced employment in restaurants, bars, and nightclubs.

6. The impact of a smoking ban in Chicago would be especially severe.

7. Bar and restaurant owners should be allowed to make the right decisions.

8. A just government does not have the authority to ban the use of a legal substance.



HEALTH CONSIDERATIONS

9. The threat of secondhand smoke has been greatly exaggerated.

10. Air cleaning equipment can remove any health threat secondhand smoke might pose.

11. Smokers know the risk that smoking poses to their health, and even over-estimate it.

12. Smokers already pay more, through taxes, than the cost their habits impose on the rest of society.



UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES

13. Smoking bans move noisy and potentially dangerous crowds onto sidewalks.

14. Enforcement of a smoking ban would be expensive.



WHO SUPPORTS THE BAN?

1. Most seats in most restaurants are already designated nonsmoking.

“Diners in this city have no shortage of options – including telling the managers at their favorite haunts that other people’s smoking will drive their business elsewhere."--Chicago Tribune editorial,December 10, 2002

Current statutes in Chicago require one-third of seats in restaurants to be designated nonsmoking. Most restaurants set aside more, and a growing number are entirely nonsmoking. At least half of all seats in Chicago restaurants are already reserved for nonsmokers. Most restaurants connected to bars have invested heavily in ventilation and air cleaning systems to ensure smoke doesn’t travel from the bar to the restaurant.

2. Nonsmokers who visit restaurants and bars are not complaining.

“Clearly the tobacco control movement is not grassroots-initiated. It is funded by veteran liberal activists in the foundations, government and nonprofit worlds. Given time, tobacco control advocates can wage an increasingly effective public relations assault and recruit more supporters.”--Patrick Reilly, Foundation Watch
August 1998

Advocates of the smoking ban claim they are acting on behalf of nonsmokers who are annoyed by smoking at restaurants and bars, but the Public Health Department of the City of Chicago received just 16 complaints in 2001. If nonsmokers are satisfied with current accommodations, who is driving the anti-smoking campaign? A small group of professional anti-smoking activists affiliated with taxpayer-financed organizations such as the Illinois Coalition Against Tobacco and the American Lung Association.

3. The general public does not support smoking bans in restaurants.

52 percent of the public believe restaurants should set aside space for smokers, versus 44 percent who support a total ban. 58 percent support smoking areas in workplaces, and 66 percent support smoking rooms in hotels and motels. It is important to note that these surveys did not inform respondents that bans on smoking could cause the loss of jobs or closure of small businesses, or that all restaurants already make accommodations for smokers. [Source: “Gallup Poll In-Depth Analysis – Tobacco and Smoking,” The Gallup Organization, Princeton, NJ, August 2002, citing data from polling conducted July 19-22, 2001.]



REASONS TO OPPOSE THE BAN

4. A smoking ban would have a severe negative effect on local businesses.

Chicago-area restaurants, bars, and hotels employ over 118,000 people (with wages of more than $1.85 billion). The industry generates millions of dollars in sales and property taxes – taxes that would have to be shifted to consumers and homeowners if restaurants and bars were forced out of business. Approximately one out of every four adults in Chicago smoke, but half or more of the people who frequent bars, nightclubs, and restaurants attached to bars are smokers. According to restaurant and bar owners, smokers spend more, on average, than nonsmokers on alcohol, food, and tips. Consequently, a ban on smoking in restaurants and bars would reduce business and sales by more than 25 percent, and possibly by 50 percent or more.

5. Smoking bans elsewhere have reduced employment in restaurants, bars, and nightclubs.

In California from 1994 to 1999, the number of permits issued to restaurants and bars that serve liquor fell 3.3 percent.

“In other words, during a period in which we saw a tremendous increase in the overall economy, 1,039 restaurants or bars went out of business.”--Otto J. Meuksch, President
Californians for Smokers Rights
(Citing state government reports)

A 1998 telephone survey of 300 owners or managers of California restaurants, bars, and night clubs affected by the statewide smoking ban found 59.3 percent experienced a decrease in business since the ban. The average decline in sales was 26.2 percent. Nearly 30 percent reported laying off employees or cutting hours or shifts. Note that this is in California, where smoking outdoors is often a pleasant alternative.

6. The impact of a smoking ban in Chicago would be especially severe.

“In virtually every city where [Stanton A.] Glantz and [Lisa R.A.] Smith alleged a smoking ban was imposed, there was a significant decline in sales at eating and drinking establishments.”--Dr. Michael K. Evans
Clinical Professor of Economics
Kellogg School, Northwestern University

California and Florida, the two states that have banned smoking in indoor public spaces, are both warm-weather states where smokers can be readily accommodated most times of the year in outdoor courtyards and patios. In Chicago, such spaces would be unpleasant or unusable for some nine months of the year. The loss of business would drive many of Chicago’s small neighborhood bars and restaurants out of business.

7. Bar and restaurant owners should be allowed to make the right decisions.

“If some of the best restaurateurs in the city say that a smoking ban would cost them customers and money, who are we to tell them they are wrong? Just because a voluntary smoking ban works at one kind of restaurant doesn’t mean that it would work at another.”--Mark Brown, “Cigarette-hater doesn’t see reason for ban,” Chicago Sun-Times, December 18, 2002

With few exceptions, bars and restaurants are privately owned businesses that earn a profit by giving customers what they want. The owners of these establishments are in the best position to know what their customers want and how to deliver it. Since they own the property, their right to set the rules of conduct concerning guests should be respected. No one is forced to eat or work at establishments that allow smoking.

8. A just government does not have the authority to ban the use of a legal substance.

John Stuart Mill, in a book published in 1859 titled On Liberty , wrote: “The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community against his will is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant.” Mill’s statement is directly applicable to the controversy over smoking. Quite simply, a just government does not have the authority to ban smoking on private property or to tell smokers to quit or to punish them if they do not.



HEALTH CONSIDERATIONS

9. “Exposures to environmental tobacco smoke may be lower than earlier studies indicated for bartenders, waiters and waitresses, according to a study conducted by researchers at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).”--News release, ORNL, February 2, 2002

The threat of secondhand smoke has been greatly exaggerated.
Claims that secondhand smoke causes as many as 65,000 early deaths in the U.S. each year have been widely debunked as “junk science.” Studies by the Congressional Research Service, World Health Organization, and U.S. Department of Energy all failed to find secondhand smoke to be a significant health risk. In 1998, a U.S. District Court ruled against the Environmental Protection Agency’s attempt to classify secondhand smoke as a known human carcinogen. The judge wrote, “. . . EPA disregarded information and made findings on selective information; . . . did not disseminate significant epidemiologic information; deviated from its Risk Assessment Guidelines; failed to disclose important findings and reasoning; and left significant questions without answers.”

10. Air cleaning equipment can remove any health threat secondhand smoke might pose.

“John Colletti, managing partner at Gibson’s Steakhouse, said he shouldn’t have to turn away smokers when he has spent $1 million at two restaurants for air filtration.”--Associated Press, “Chicago weighs two smoking bans,” Daily Herald, December 11, 2002

Harvey Davis, Ph.D., a professor of science and mathematics at Columbia College and President of Davis Environmental Services Group, Inc., in an assessment of a study of air cleaning equipment at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center, wrote, “it is my opinion that (a) the ETS [environmental tobacco smoke] can be reduced to a level that minimizes unwanted health risks and (b) interim occupational/ recreational exposure limits could be established for ETS.”

11. Smokers know the risk that smoking poses to their health, and even over-estimate it.

“The overwhelming majority of the sample overestimate the lung cancer risks associated with smoking. . . . there are no particular problem groups that are not as aware of the mortality risks associated with cigarettes.”--Dr. Kip Vicscusi, Smoke-Filled Rooms (University of Chicago Press, 2002),p. 150

Long-term heavy smoking is hazardous to your health. The odds of a life-long smoker dying prematurely (before the age of 75) of a smoking-related disease are about 12 to 1 (not the “3 to 1” odds claimed on anti-smoking billboards). Surveys of smokers show they over-estimate the actual risk to their health. They continue to smoke because they decide the enjoyment is worth the risk, just as long-distance runners, bicyclists, race car drivers, and countless other pursuers of pleasure willingly accept risk.

12. Smokers already pay more, through taxes, than the cost their habits impose on the rest of society.

“Economists have argued for two decades that smokers do not incur larger health care costs than non-smokers.. That is because non-smokers, statistically, live longer than smokers and reach ages in which they incur large healthcare costs. What is more, smokers pay heavy tobacco taxes and draw less from public pensions than non-smokers. So, if we look at transfers between groups, smokers subsidize non-smokers, not the other way around.”--Dr. Pierre Lemieux, University of Quebec at Hull
Regulation, Fall 2001

The cost to society of smoking has been ridiculously exaggerated. Current excise taxes paid on cigarettes exceed the net medical expenses caused by smoking. (Grossly inflated figures circulated by the Centers for Disease Control assume smokers would live forever and never need medical care if they didn’t smoke!) Since the average smoker lives a shorter life than the average nonsmoker, smokers cost the rest of society less in nursing home and pension costs. According to Harvard professor Kip Viscusi, “On balance, smokers incur about 14 cents less per pack in costs paid by Massachusetts, while contributing an additional 51 cents per pack in excise taxes.” In other words, taxpayers in Massachusetts (a typical state) benefit to the tune of 65 cents (14 cents plus 51 cents) for every pack of cigarettes smoked.



UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES

13. Smoking bans move noisy and potentially dangerous crowds onto sidewalks.

Smokers go outside when bars and nightclubs disallow smoking inside, resulting in noise and activity that can annoy and even endanger neighborhood residents. Drinking and smoking on sidewalks is likely to be louder and more often lead to violence, crime, or injury-causing accidents than drinking and smoking inside a privately owned establishment because there is less supervision outside, greater ease of entry and exit, and immediate proximity to cars and traffic.

14. Enforcement of a smoking ban would be expensive.

“I don’t think we need to become the smoking police.”--Ald. Freddrenna Lyle
(Chicago 6th Ward)

Chicago, with 645 murders in 2002, barely missed repeating its title as “murder capital of the U.S.” Diverting scarce law enforcement resources from fighting crime to writing tickets for smoking in one of the city’s thousands of bars, restaurants, and nightclubs would be irresponsible and even deadly. Enforcement would be labor-intensive and necessarily arbitrary, providing many opportunities for corruption, favoritism, and harassment.


For further information contact Public Affairs Director Ralph Conner at 312/377-4000, or conner@heartland.org

Joseph Bast

Joseph L. Bast c.v. Joseph Bast is president and CEO of The Heartland Institute, a 29-year-old... (read full bio)