New study: Wisconsin smoking ban not hurting hospitality industry

A new economic impact study done by the University of Wisconsin looked at the five cities in Wisconsin in light of that state’s year-old smoking ban.

In the five cities — Madison (which had an existing ban), Appleton, Fond du Lac, Marshfield and Eau Claire — the study found an increase in liquor licenses and no drop in employment in the hospitality industry since the ban went into effect. In fact, since the ban went into effect, beer sales in Madison went UP 3 percent, while nationwide, they went down 2-4 percent because of the recession.

What it found is that the number of bars and taverns has decreased slightly since 2004, while full-service restaurants have increased. Employment in bars and taverns decreased slightly, while employment overall has held steady. This may or may not have anything to do with the smoking ban. Meanwhile, this is all while the economy in Wisconsin went into a sharp decline. Quoting the study:

Despite the significant economic recession of 2008, the study found the hospitality industry to be the most economically successful industry in the smoke-free cities.

This kind of confirms something I’ve suspected for some time. Some places might get hurt by smoking bans — small mom and pop taverns that don’t serve food — i.e., neighbourhood bars full of old, reliable customers (also known as dives), while overall the hospitality industry either remains unchanged or actually improves because overall more people decide to go out who otherwise wouldn’t .. because they hate smoke. I will argue until I’m blue in the face, yeah, maybe some people in the short term might lose jobs in these mom and pop taverns, but in the long run, it’s the right thing. And in the long run, is society really worse off by having fewer smoky small dives? I mean, if you’ve ever spent much time in these places, most of them are pretty depressing. They’re like strip mall casinos.

I asked my brother who lives in Wisconsin what the reaction of the state is. He kind of shrugged his shoulders and said, “no one really notices. No one cares.” Confirms my suspicions. Some bar owners rail against bans and a handful of Libertarians and smokers’ rights folks make a fuss, but 90-95 percent JUST LEARN TO LIVE WITH IT!!

Anyway, this study is very similar to literally hundreds of other economic impact studies done, but it won’t quiet the critics. No number of studies will. It’s like global warming deniers. I can hear the chorus of “lies, all lies” at the Smokers’ Club website as I type.

Here is the direct link to the study.

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