Monday, January 14, 2008

Smoke-free WI makes sense, except for Philip Morris

Thank you to Jack Lohman for this guest post!

This is an absolutely stupid battle, but like all others, follow the money and you'll learn why. Most certainly the tobacco industry money that transfers to our politicians in the form of campaign contributions has a major impact. That's a given.

But now we also have the tobacco industry giving money to tavern associations to fight their battle on the ground. That's called establishing "front groups."

In the states that have gone totally smoke-free their revenues have increased anywhere from zero to 5%, all because the nonsmokers that represent 76% of the population started eating out more. For every smoker that left the nonsmoking community, two nonsmokers came in to replace them. And over 25% of smokers prefer smoke-free dining and many of their nonsmoking friends and family members are choosing the dining atmosphere. Yes, smokers acquiesce, even in taverns.

Even in smoke-free Madison there was such a rise in new tavern applications they had to place a moratorium on new licenses. Taverns!!! In a smoke-free city!!! Why is the Tavern League not jumping with joy?

Are there isolated cases where taverns in a smoke-free community lost business? Probably, but those had painted themselves into a corner by chasing away too many nonsmokers. Every smoker, over time, will chase away five nonsmokers. Sometimes more. The smokers come back but the nonsmokers never do. They are gone forever... went down the street to a smoke-free place... and won't be back.

These operators may be good at food but they are obviously terrible at math.

None of that would happen under a 100% ban with smokers having no other place to go. They'd still patronize their favorite haunt, they'd just step outside when hit by the urge to breathe deadly fumes.

A year after the state of New York eliminated smoking in bars and restaurants, its Department of Labor reported that 10,000 new restaurant jobs had been added. Where in the world do our drinking and eating establishment owners store their calculators?

Why would tavern association leaders fight a ban that would increase business? Perhaps because they are more interested in money from Philip Morris for executive salaries than they are the success of their members, and I suspect Philip Morris could care less as well.

Why would tavern owners tolerate such conflicts of interest with their trade association? I haven't figured that one out yet.

Lohman is a retired business owner from Colgate, WI and publishes He authored "Politicians -- Owned and Operated by Corporate America" and can be reached at


Liz @ SmokeFree Wisconsin said...

Thanks for guest posting Jack!

Robert said...

You gotta hand it to them. Those tobacco executives are a pretty savvy bunch.
Love your posting but I'm not sure if using New York City as an example is fair. New York is such a huge city with a unique economy. Let's not forget that most New Yorkers eat out out much more than once per week (any excuse to get out of that ridiculously expensive 300 square foot studio... trust me I know).
That being said, the numbers are there to support the fact that a smoking ban generally is not as damaging as some may lead us to believe.
We recently ran a feature on Smoker's Rights. Feel free to give us some feedback.

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Jack Lohman said...

Thanks Robert. The New York numbers are statewide, not just NYC.

As savvy as the tobacco industry is, the hospitality industry seems just the opposite. They must stand up and do the right thing, but will they?