Los Angeles has taken the ongoing regulation of smoking in public places a step further and banned smoking in the outdoor patio areas of restaurants. The city council voted unanimously in favor of the ban, despite repeated pleas by local restaurants that the ban would hurt business in an already down economy. The ban will take effect one year from the time the mayor signs the ordinance. The city plans to take that time to educate the public on the new ban and the dangers of second hand smoke in general.
It’s an argument the restaurant industry has been using for the last ten years as it attempts to maintain the status quo on smoking. Unfortunately, a growing body of evidence shows there is no negative effect on business in restaurants when a smoking ban goes into effect, and some areas have even seen a slight rise in revenues after a ban as non-smoking patrons (who make up 75% of the population) stay longer and spend more. The effects of second-hand smoke are also well documented, and some studies have shown a 40% drop in heart attacks in public places after the implementation of a smoking ban.
The reality is, smoking bans are here to stay, whether they regulate patios, dining areas, or any other area of a restaurant. The argument that business will suffer also seems to ring more and more hollow as restaurants in areas with comprehensive smoking bans continue to survive, and even thrive, after the passage of the ban.
National public smoking regulation is probably coming in the next five years. Even dyed-in-the-wool tobacco states like North Carolina and Virginia have passed public smoking bans in recent years. It’s time for the restaurant industry to accept the reality of the situation and adapt their businesses to change rather than fighting fruitlessly to maintain the status quo.
For a more in-depth discussion of smoking bans and how they affect restaurants, plus an interesting debate in the comments section, read this public smoking ban post.