Some Lawmakers Say Recession Argues Against Smoking Bans

Some state lawmakers and alcohol industry members say that the poor economy argues against passing laws banning smoking in public spaces because such laws could hurt business, the Associated Press reported Feb. 4.

A planned smoking ban at casinos in Atlantic City, N.J., was temporarily shelved as gambling revenues in the city slid, and opponents of smoking bans in Wyoming, Colorado, Virginia, and elsewhere are touting their economic case against ending smoking in bars, restaurants, and other indoor places.

In Virginia and Wyoming, proposed ban legislation has exempted bars.

“This economy, it creates a little more sympathy for the business person,” said Mike Moser, executive director of the Wyoming State Liquor Association. “So when we say this is going to put us out of business, believe me, they’re listening.”

Health advocates, however, argue that the bans help cut smoking and related illnesses, which helps the economy in the long run.

To date, 23 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico have banned indoor smoking. Studies have not typically shown any significant economic impact on bars and restaurants where the bans have been implemented. “This whole economic argument is hogwash, scientifically, but that doesn’t mean it’s not politically useful,” said Stanton Glantz, director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California at San Francisco.

“To say that people want to roll back smoking laws because of the economy, it’s absurd,” said Karen Blumenfeld, director of the New Jersey Group Against Smoking Pollution. “We might as well roll back health codes because the economy’s bad. Or repeal child-labor laws to make factories more profitable. It makes no sense.”

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