Friday, February 8, 2008

Anecdotes go both ways, but data doesn't lie

Anecdotes and personal stories are powerful components of a successful media campaign. One thing our opposition has always done well is "spin" the smoke-free issue by propagating the anecdotes of bar owners who are concerned smoke-free policies will put them out of business.

Madison's smoke-free ordinance experience is a great case example of how anecdotes were successfully (and eagerly, at times) disseminated through the media while the statistics and data relating to the claims being made were essentially ignored. Stories and controversy sell, data doesn't - I get that - there's nothing too flashy about supporting documentation that looks like this. Two and a half years later, liquor license applications in Madison are up from pre-ordinance years, but it's the doom and gloom anecdotes of the Tavern League that are still stuck in people's minds.

It's too bad the data doesn't always speak for itself, but I can understand why it's not as consumable as putting a real face on the issue. Most of us wouldn't take the Surgeon General's Report on Secondhand Smoke (709 pages) on vacation for a beach read. For that reason, I'm glad to see the tides are turning in the public debate over smoke-free air.

More and more we're starting to hear the personal stories that complement the mountains of evidence supporting strong smoke-free policy. Secondhand smoke affects Wisconsinites in many ways - you can hear others' stories or contribute your own on the new website. We're also hearing from bar owners who say going smoke-free wasn't the end of the world - check out this article from the Quad-City Times about Illinois bars that are experiencing an increase in business after Illinois went smoke-free on January 1.

We know smoke-free policy works from both the health and business standpoints. But for those who aren't dataheads, it's important you get out there and tell your story!

No comments: