smoked economics

The fear of losing customers is so blinding for some business interests in White Rock that they seem to have lost focus on reality.

I completely understand the instinct to protect our ability to earn a living, and to defend someone else’s livelihood. What I don’t understand is how it has created fear to the point that rational thought is lost.

Over 85% of people in this area do not smoke. Statistically valid polls have concluded that this vast majority of people would visit restaurants and bars as often or more often if they were completely smoke-free. Only 4% said they would go less often. This is supported by the well-documented experience of cities all across North America. There is no evidence of negative impact from smoke-free regulations. In fact, the studies show that many places experienced an increase in business as the number of people who ate out more often outweighed the number who ate out less often.

It seems strange to me that local business advocates would cling so tightly to the status quo. Given such an overwhelming body of market research that says smoke-free bylaws are beneficial to business, neutral at worst, why are we hearing such a counter-productive stance from local restaurants?

Tobacco use is bad for our economy, locally, regionally, provincially, nationally. Is our society so addicted to short-term cash that we can’t see the long-term costs of health care and productivity losses? And in the case of our local businesses, are they so blinded by the sales generated from a small minority of smokers that they can’t see the potential of increased sales from the huge majority of non-smokers, many of whom avoid places with tobacco smoke?

When are we going to snap out of our denial of the fact that tobacco smoke is highly toxic? Despite science placing tobacco smoke beside asbestos and benzene as being poisonous even at barely detectable levels, we seem to cling to the illogical argument that tobacco is a legal product so therefore everyone should tolerate it.

I realize that a business doesn’t want to offend any potential customer so they don’t want to make their smoking customers feel unwelcome. But what they seem to be missing is that a larger number of people are offended by tobacco smoke, and that smoke makes them feel unwelcome.

Going smoke-free will be good for our economy. While I empathize with the passionate fears of those concerned about their livelihoods, all the local facts and the experience of other cities say that there is no reason to be afraid of smoke-free bylaws. In fact, the evidence suggests that economic boosters should embrace clean-air legislation.



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