Mar 31, 2009

Michigan Licensed Beverage Association puts out false information on workplace smoking ban

On the day before a committee vote on the workplace smoking ban, the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association (MLBA) is dropping off in lawmaker’s offices a packet of cherry-picked studies that try and claim a smoking ban threatens sales and jobs in Michigan’s’ bars and restaurants.

Most of the studies are old and debunked, and they are conducted by groups like the Empire State Restaurant and Tavern Association. However, an independent study last April by Lansing-based Public Sector Consultants Inc. called “Smoke-Free Workplaces: The Impact of House Bill 4163 on the Restaurant and Bar Industry in Michigan” concludes that “The Michigan restaurant and bar industry will experience no net economic impact from House Bill 4163.”

No one from the tobacco industry, the Michigan Restaurant Association or the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association can explain how less than 23 percent of the population who still smoke can have such a huge effect on business. How is that even possible?

The MLBA claim an Oct. 1, 2004 study of a smoking ban in Dallas, Texas claimed restaurants saw a 9 to 50 percent drop in sales. But when researchers from the Texas Department of State Health Services reviewed the study, they concluded that the methodology was flawed, the data used from the state was either misunderstood or misapplied, and the conclusions were simply wrong.

The Michigan study included a detailed review of 43 published research articles concerning the effects of smoke-free workplace legislation on bars, restaurants, tourism and gaming; seven studies of the public health consequences of environmental tobacco smoke or secondhand smoke, and numerous data related to ETS from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Michigan study examined two Texas studies that relied on 13 years of sales data and found no negative effects of smoke-free ordinances on restaurants. That trumps a one year Dallas study.

In four separate studies of New York City showed an increase in employment and sales tax receipts from these establishments. But the study by the Empire State Restaurant and Tavern Association claims $71.5 million in lost sales. Wow, those smokers have a lot – I mean a lot – of disposable income.

The fact is there have been absolutely no credible studies that show a negative economic impact resulting from a state-wide or country-wide smoking ban, and the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association knows it.

The reality is that secondhand smoke kills. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has classified secondhand smoke as a Group A carcinogen containing 4,000 chemicals, including 43 cancer-causing chemicals. Thousands of people die each year from secondhand smoke.

The absolute bottom line is this is a public health issue, and the false claims of lost sales do not trump the public health aspect.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates the cost savings of eliminating secondhand smoke in the workplace to be between $35 and $66 billion a year. Given the state of Michigan’s economy we really can’t afford not to go smoke-free.

The House Regulatory Reform Committee will meet at noon tomorrow - Wednesday, April 1 - in room 326 of the House Office Building in Lansing. According to the agenda, the committee plans to vote out House Bill 4377 introduced by Representative Lee Gonzales, D-Flint Township. This bill exempts casinos and so-called “cigar bars.”

While most people could live with a ban that has a few exceptions, including me, until people realize business will not be hurt by a ban and we get a total ban, the problem is the Senate will pass a bill with no exceptions, and we will get something like what occurred in December.

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