Smoked Out

On January 1, California's statewide ban on smoking in bars went into effect. The first survey of the ban's effect on business has produced some expected--and a few unexpected--results. Among the former: Based on interviews with 300 owners randomly chosen from among the Golden State's 7,216 establishments, bar business has declined by an average of more than 26 percent; about 60 percent of all bars reported losing business. Among the latter: About half of respondents reported an increase in arguments between waiters and customers (attributed to smaller tips) and among customers themselves.

The survey, conducted earlier this year by KPMG Peat Marwick for the American Beverage Institute, a trade association of restaurant and bar owners that opposed the ban, also found that about 30 percent of owners had laid off workers as a result of weak business and that about 25 percent of patrons simply ignore the ban and light up anyway.

Anti-smoking activists had predictable reactions to the study. In a Los Angeles Times story, U.C.-San Francisco researcher Stanton Glantz called the study "a standard drill that the tobacco industry routinely does," even though the ABI says it received no tobacco funding. Suggesting that the information obtained from bar owners has little value, Cynthia Hallet of the Berkeley-based Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights questioned the survey's validity. She told the Times the study was no good because "they are not looking at hard data," such as sales tax receipts.

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