While smoke is rapidly clearing around
Australia's offices, homes and restaurants,
misinformation flies thick, fast and furious
in the fight to stave off clean-air policies
in hotels and clubs.
Following the introduction of legislation
in the ACT, all Australian states and
territories have legislated to outlaw
smoking in indoor dining areas. With legislation currently under review in several jurisdictions,
hospitality industry groups have mobilized
nationally to oppose, delay, and water
down proposals to extend legislation to
bars and gaming areas.
Health groups and labour unions representing
hospitality industry workers, on the other
hand, are pushing hard for a widening
of smoke-free laws on the grounds of employee
and public health and safety.
Absent in the debate has been the tobacco
industry itself which, having abandoned
strategies to deny the health effects
of passive smoking, has in more recent
years resorted to inflaming fears among
proprietors about the financial impact
of such smoke-free policies.
Previously secret documents made public
under the terms of settlements between
US attorneys general and US tobacco companies
reveal a well-thought-out strategy to
recruit hospitality interests world-wide
in order to persuade proprietors to invest
in expensive air-conditioning solutions
in preference to simple cost-free policies
requiring patrons to simply "slip
outside" to smoke.
Smoke-free policies in workplaces have
significantly depressed tobacco consumption
and cigarette sales, and it is thought
that a similar extension of policies to
the hospitality industry represents a
serious business threat to that industry.
It is not difficult to understand why
hospitality industry associations have
so enthusiastically taken up the tobacco
industry's interests in this area, and
there is much speculation and considerable
evidence from the US at least, of close
With the bald-faced gall of an Iraqi
Information Minister, hospitality industry
spokesmen around the country have been
claiming that bans inevitably wreak havoc
on sales and will put clubs and pubs out
of business. Much of the "research"
here is an exercise in measuring the fear
created by the industry's own propaganda.
The majority of studies quoted in attempts
to oppose smoke-free policies are based
on surveys of proprietors' opinions or
predictions about the likely impact of
bans. These surveys have been conducted
after proprietors have been subject to
months of scare mongering but before they
have any experience of such policies.
Studies which have re-surveyed proprietors
a year or so after the introduction of
such policies have found that fears are
comprehensive review of all the available
evidence on the economic impact of
smoke-free policies in restaurants and
hotels was recently published in the international
British Medical Journal's Tobacco Control.
This review found that none of the 35
studies concluding a negative economic
impact was funded by sources independent
of the tobacco industry and none of these
studies used objective data, such as sales
or employment figures.
To accurately assess the impact of smoke-free
policies, regulators need to look at studies
using independently collected sales data
that incorporates controls for random
fluctuations, seasonal variation and changing
economic conditions. With all 21 of the
well-designed studies concluding that
smoke-free policies had no negative impact
on revenues or jobs, policy-makers can
act to protect hospitality industry workers
and patrons from the toxins in secondhand
smoke knowing there will be no adverse
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