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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Pioneer Press: Smoking Ban Study

Hey look! The Pioneer Press doesn't factor personal freedom in their new study. Go figure.

Smoking ban fears prove unfounded

Nearly nine months after restrictions took effect in the bars and restaurants of the Twin Cities, a Pioneer Press study finds that the local hospitality industry is doing just fine.
BY JASON HOPPIN and MARYJO SYLWESTER
Pioneer Press

Smoking bans in the Twin Cities do not appear to be the economic disaster many predicted
Apparently, governments may whittle away the personal freedoms of property owners providing it doesn’t result in an economic disaster.

Overall, the hospitality industry continues to grow despite claims that bans are hurting individual bars and restaurants. Sales throughout the metro area, including Hennepin County, increased during the second quarter of 2005 over the year before, according to a Pioneer Press analysis of taxable sales reported to the Minnesota Department of Revenue.
If a restaurant or bar owner closes his business due to declining business the Pioneer Press sees that as a mere claim of failure, but when they put together a study they PROVE the ban is harmless. This reminds me of an exchange between the affable James Hacker in “Yes, Prime Minister” debating with Sir Humphrey Applebee (the head of the Civil Service) over statistics. (Regarding smoking, if I remember correctly, in an episode called The Smoke Screen... although, it might be from another episode.)

Statistics? Prime Minister, you can prove anything with statistics.”
However, when Hacker later confronts Humphrey’s government study asking where he found this information Humphrey almost slips...
“They’re sta… they’re facts.”

Actual cases of establishments closing are mere claims. Of course, we can’t trust the individual to make an honest and factual statement regarding his economic failure. Better leave it to the press… journalists would NEVER mislead or falsify a news report. Just ask Dan Rather and Mary Mapes.

The data provide one of the first hard looks at the economic effects of smoking bans in the area's bars and restaurants, a debate often fueled more by rhetoric and anecdotal accounts on both sides than by fact. Among the newspaper's findings
• Fears that a patchwork of regulations would lead customers to seek smoker-friendly bars and restaurants appear to be largely unfounded. There was no significant decline in food and liquor sales in any of the counties or cities where smoking is restricted.
Any research into the likelihood that patrons would seek smoker-friendly homes or other private locations to smoke and drink?

Also, the study shows no significant decline in food and liquor sales… how does the study define significant? What’s more, is this information measured in a change in percentages, units sold, or dollars?
• Several popular destinations, including downtown Minneapolis, Uptown, Dinkytown and parts of St. Paul, did better after the ban went into effect than the year before.
Just to be snarky, what did you expect from Uptown and Dinkytown?
• Despite claims of widespread bar and restaurant closures in Minneapolis since the ban, there now are more liquor establishments in the city than when it took effect
Sounds like a fairly naked statement… please expand on this. Please tell us the number of liquor establishments that existed before the ban, the number that folded since the ban, the number that started up since the ban, and the current total as of the time of the study. Also, what constitutes a liquor establishment? Is it a wine bar? A trendy bistro that serves port? A 7-11 that sells 3.2 beer?
• Food and liquor sales in suburbs and counties without smoking restrictions are strong, but that trend existed even before the bans went into effect.

Nearly nine months after the restrictions took effect, communities are still grappling with their ramifications. Bar owners maintain that smoke-free laws are wiping out their bottom lines, while public health advocates push to further eradicate smoking in public workplaces.
Here’s a novel idea… let the business owners decide for themselves.

On Wednesday the St. Paul City Council will hear testimony on whether to enact a total smoking ban, and next week the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners is expected to vote on whether to roll back that county's ban.

The question is, will those decisions stifle or spur the economic growth of the area?Based on the newspaper's analysis, they may not matter much at all.
Again, the personal rights of property owners apparently don’t matter much at all either.


UPDATE: 12:15 PM
Bob from the ALA (a frequent reader at Anti-Strib) dropped in and provided the link to some details at the Pioneer Press website. However, they don't seem to help with some of my questions.

Again, I'm willing to say the study was done in good faith, but the story was poorly written in terms of not defining terms... and (more importantly) simply ignores the rights of private property owners.


UPDATE: 2:45 PM
I should post a link to my inaugural post, which focuses on the smoking ban.

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