Thursday, June 30, 2005

Smoking Bans Good for Business

The good news is that fewer people are dying as a result of cigarette smoking now compared to 10 years ago. The bad news is that the reduction is meager given the publicity the anti-smoking campaign has garnered in recent years.

In the five year period ending in 2001, nearly 438,000 people died as a result of smoking or breathing second-hand smoke. That’s only two thousand fewer than the five year period ending in 1996. But at least the trend is in the right direction.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced last week that during the five years ending in 2001 the nation lost $92 billion in productivity because of smoking. Smoking related health care costs were more than $75 billion in 1998 alone.

The CDC said that smoking takes an average of 14 years off a person’s life. “Cigarette smoking continues to impose substantial health and financial costs on individuals and society,” CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding said.

She also said, however, that the message is beginning to get through. Far fewer people are smoking these days than they were 15 years ago. That should eventually lead to fewer smoking-related deaths and, therefore, to less of a loss in productivity in the future.

Twenty years ago, smoking was so common that if a restaurant did have a non-smoking section it was usually the smallest section in the dining room. Today, that pattern is reversed. Most restaurants, if they allow smoking at all, have relegated the smoking section to a small isolated corner.

Of course, not all restaurants are following the trend. Small, family-owned restaurants sometimes do not even have a no-smoking section. On the other hand, a few such restaurants, such as Ann’s CafĂ© in Franklin have banned smoking outright.

The managers of some restaurants just don’t seem to get it. They have a no-smoking section, but put it right next to the smoking section with no dividers or separate ventilation. They seem to miss the point.

There are several such restaurants in Indianapolis. But, thankfully, the Indianapolis City-County Council passed an ordinance that will take place next March that bans smoking in all public places, including restaurants, if they allow children to enter. Bowling alleys are exempt for some reason.

More and more municipalities are starting to catch on that smoking bans in public buildings are generally well tolerated, if not outright supported, by a majority of their citizens. And the health benefits that come with such bans are enormous.

Now that Indianapolis and Marion County have taken the step to ban smoking in most restaurants, it is time for the donut counties to follow the lead. They should pass smoking bans as well.

Some restaurant owners in Johnson County have claimed that if this county passed a smoking ban, their patrons would just go to Indianapolis. That no longer is a good argument.

Here in Edinburgh, smokers might be tempted to go down the road into Bartholomew County to smoke and eat. But, eventually, the ban should spread like a wave from those counties that have already prohibited smoking. Eventually, most counties should have smoke-free public buildings.

We owe it not only to our own health, but to the health of our children to ban smoking anywhere that children are welcome. And that includes most restaurants.

No comments: