Smoking banned in restaurants
Over the past decade, the focus of clean air action has shifted from restrictions on smoking to complete bans in workplaces, restaurants, or bars. Research has shown that simply posting warnings or providing people with educational materials about the health effects of smoking do not work as well as carefully planned policies to completely ban smoking in public places.
Across the country, hundreds of local laws ban smoking in restaurants and bars. As of July 1, 2008, 13 states have existing laws, and an additional five states have comprehensive laws that will take effect during 2009, requiring 100 percent smoke-free restaurants, bars, and workplaces. Fourteen other states have bans in one or two of those places, according to the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation . Smoking bans in restaurants and bars have been controversial; the tobacco industry and some restaurant and bar owners have argued that sales would decline if a ban were introduced. However, a 2004 review found no resulting negative economic effects.
One State’s Success Banning Smoking in Bars, Casinos, and Gaming Clubs
The state of California adopted a smoking ban in bars, casinos, and gaming clubs in 1998. In 1994, the California legislature passed a bill that would eliminate smoking in almost all enclosed workplaces. Once the bill was passed, the real work began. The tobacco control supporters identified three main goals to help get business owners to comply with the new law:
- Ease the transition for business owners.
- Activate public support for the law.
- Defeat tobacco industry efforts to undermine the law.
To help achieve these goals, tobacco control supporters created an organization called BREATH whose purpose was to help various state, county, and local groups implement the new law. BREATH indentified five strategies toward achieving its goals:
- Inform and educate ethnically and linguistically diverse business owners and patrons about the new law;
- Collect and evaluate data on the economic impact of the law, including its influence on tourism and attitudes of foreign visitors about smoke-free entertainment;
- Provide legal interpretations and enforcement models to code-enforcement officers and prosecutors;
- Develop local media spots to counter tobacco industry resistance, working in tandem with the California Department of Health Services media campaign to enhance public awareness and highlight public support for the law; and,
- Train local tobacco control coalitions to advocate for full and fair implementation of the law and against attempts to undermine the law by the tobacco industry's allies.
BREATH conducted two statewide mailings to business owners about the law and set up a toll-free phone number. It also staffed a booth at the annual California Restaurant Association Trade Show and ran ads in statewide Beverage Industry News and Patterson's Beverage Journal. Finally, it created a 14-minute video that included interviews with bar owners and scientific experts, which was shown at local community meetings arranged all over the state.
Throughout the process, BREATH members carried out public opinion surveys and conducted studies of economic data from communities that were already smoke-free, then publicized the results.