Smoke-Free Doesn’t Kill Appetites

Smoke free laws did not affect restaurant revenues

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) When you’re hungry, you may want to inhale a meal but not secondhand smoke. State laws prohibiting smoking in restaurants are delivering health benefits and not eating away at business.

Even if you don’t smoke, breathing in the tobacco fumes from others can harm your health in many ways. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that secondhand smoke can cause heart disease, stroke and lung cancer.

In one of the largest studies to date, the CDC has found that statewide smoke-free laws would not have an economic impact on restaurants and bars.

"Avoid secondhand smoke to improve your health."

Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association, issued a statement on the new findings, urging all states to pass comprehensive smoke-free laws to protect workers and the public from secondhand smoke.

"Despite the health hazards of secondhand smoke exposure, many cities and states have still not passed strong smoke-free laws," said Brown in a press release. "One of the most common arguments against these laws is the fear that businesses will see a drop in revenue. This study confirms that not only are smoke-free laws good for health, they will not hurt business. It is time for action."

RTI International, an independent, nonprofit research institute, conducted this research in nine states: Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia.

North Carolina was the only state in the analysis with an existing statewide smoke-free restaurant and bar law. Other states were selected because they have enough local smoke-free laws to allow for an aggregate analysis, although they lack comprehensive statewide smoke-free laws.

In eight of the states, smoke-free laws had no significant effect on restaurant or bar employment or revenues. In the ninth state, West Virginia, researchers discovered that smoke-free laws were associated with a small increase in restaurant employment, and were not associated with a change in bar employment.

"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 this study Brett Loomis, a research economist at RTI International, in a press release. “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."

The study's authors highlighted the health benefits of smoke-free policies that ban smoking in workplaces and public places, including restaurants and bars. These laws 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.

The American Heart Association says that secondhand smoke is estimated to cause between 21,000 and 75,000 deaths from heart disease and between 38,000 and 129,000 heart attacks every year. Long-term exposure to secondhand smoke, in a home or in the workplace, may increase the likelihood for coronary heart disease in adult nonsmokers by 25 to 30 percent. Even short-term exposure can elevate the risk of heart attacks among non-smokers.

Secondhand smoke contributes to 3,400 lung cancer deaths in adult US nonsmokers each year, according to the CDC.

“Smoke-free laws make good business sense — they improve health, save lives, increase productivity, and reduce health care costs," said Tom Frieden, MD, CDC director, in a statement. "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 study was released August 1 in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease. The research was made possible by a partnership grant from Pfizer Inc. to the CDC Foundation.

Review Date: 
August 4, 2013
Last Updated:
August 6, 2013