The first major study of
restaurant smoking bans shows that strict laws in New York City
and in Massachusetts have had no significant impact on sales,
according to findings released on Monday.
The results are important because they can be used by local
officials nationwide who are working to get restaurant smoking
bans passed or existing laws strengthened, according to the
study's researchers and anti-smoking advocates.
The findings were published in the January issue of The
Journal of Public Health Management and Practice. Composed of
several research papers, they were funded by The Substance Abuse
Policy Research Program.
The program is supported by Princeton, N.J.-based Robert
Wood Johnson Foundation, which is devoted to improving health
care and reducing substance abuse, including tobacco.
The findings were based on taxable sales receipts from New
York City and Massachusetts restaurants. Although there have
been earlier studies of smoking bans, this research is the first
to examine New York City, the nation's largest dining market
with more than 22,000 restaurants.
New York City's Smoke-Free Air Act was signed into law in
January 1995 and bans smoking in restaurants with more than 35
indoor dining seats. Smoking is allowed in bar areas of those
restaurants if they are separated from the dining space.
Many New York restaurant owners joined the tobacco industry
in trying to fight the law, saying it was bad for business and
would result in a loss of jobs.
However, the analysis showed that sales in New York City
restaurants have increased by 2 percent since the anti-smoking
law became effective. In the rest of New York State, where
smoking laws are less stringent, sales decreased by 4 percent.
Between 1993 and 1997, the city gained 19,347 new restaurant
jobs, an 18 percent increase. The number of restaurants in the
city rose 6 percent during this period.
Dr. Andrew Hyland, a Roswell Park Cancer Institute
researcher who worked on the study, said a survey of diners
showed the majority had not cut back on restaurant visits.
"Some smokers did report dining out less frequently, but
non-smokers, who out-number smokers four to one, reported dining
out more frequently," he said.
Michael O'Neal, of O'Neal's Restaurant near Lincoln Center,
said he felt many of his colleagues were misled by Big Tobacco
into believing the ban would hurt business.
"I'm tired of my business being used by the tobacco
industry," O'Neal said, adding that if 75 percent of consumers
do not smoke compared with 25 percent who do, the anti-smoking
ban would be good for business. "It's simple math," he said.
Waldy Malouf, who was chef director at the Rainbow Room
until it recently changed ownership, said there had been no
adverse effect. He said concerns there would be a drop in orders
for desserts and after dinner drinks proved unfounded.
Malouf, who will be opening two restaurants in Manhattan,
said the ban was good because it eliminated the need for
separate seating sections.
The research of Massachusetts restaurants found that, on
average, restaurant revenue in smoke-free towns rose 4 percent.
Restaurant revenues in communities that did not severely
restrict smoking rose 2 percent over the same period.