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Debate smolders over effect of California smoking ban

Some California bar owners claim the anti-smoking law is costing them money, but anti-smoking advocates say sales tax records tell a different story  

In this story:

Alfresco puffing

Ignoring the law?


September 17, 1999
Web posted at: 8:25 p.m. EDT (0025 GMT)

From Correspondent Don Knapp

SAN FRANCISCO (CNN) -- On Saturday, the state of Maine will join California and a handful of other states that have banned smoking in restaurants.

In the Golden State, where a smoking ban in restaurants and bars has been in place for more than a year, there is still a debate over whether the new law has had a detrimental effect on business.

"The Golden Gate Restaurant Association did a study, when the law first came out, the first quarter, and people reported, based on their experience, a 20 percent loss in revenues," said Kathleen Harrington, who owns a bar in San Francisco's financial district.

Alfresco puffing

Harrington says sales at her bar dropped 12 percent, prompting her to build a patio for smokers to congregate.

But anti-smoking advocates reject the assertion that the ban has cut business.

"Since the smoke-free restaurant and bar law went into effect in California, revenues are actually up," says Stan Glantz, a professor of medicine at the University of California-San Francisco. "Restaurants and bars are doing better than they were before the law passed."

Glantz says California tax revenues show a 5.9 percent increase in sales at restaurants with beer and wine licenses and a 5.1 percent increase in sales at restaurants with full alcohol service and bars that don't serve food.

Glantz also looked at bars and restaurants in 89 cities and six states with anti-smoking laws and says he found none that were harmed by the ban.

Ignoring the law?

However, bar owners say sales may be up only because some bars break the law.

While one statewide survey in California showed nearly all restaurants and more than two-thirds of all bars were observing the smoking ban, a county survey in San Francisco showed only half of the city's bars were enforcing the new law.

Harrington says she will continue to fight the ban.

"Hospitality is, after all, about people having fun. It's not a workplace where you're sitting at a desk," she said.

Special Section: Tobacco under attack
At U.N., tobacco ban goes up in smoke
May 31, 1999
Study: Bartenders' health better after California smoking ban
December 20, 1998
Drew Carey leads 'smoke-in' to protest ban
April 1, 1998

  • Tobacco Information and Prevention Sourcepage - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Foundation for a Smoke-Free America
  • Smokefree Schools, Workplaces, and Homes
  • FORCES - The Pro-Choice on Smoking Organization
  • The National Smoker's Alliance
  • Smokers.Com - Where smoking is allowed?
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