Home / Restaurant Management and Operations / Do Public Smoking Bans Affect Restaurants?

Do Public Smoking Bans Affect Restaurants?

Smoking bans are coming to your restaurant.  Are you prepared?
Smoking bans are coming to your restaurant. Are you prepared?

Despite the objections of many groups in the food service industry, public smoking bans have been passed with increasing frequency over the past five years.

Restaurants and bars are primarily concerned with losing business as a result of these smoking bans.  Advocacy groups claim that the health benefits of banning smoking far outweigh any other concern.

As a restaurateur, you are probably either already under a public smoking ban or will be soon, and it’s important to understand the pros and cons of these bans on your business.

For starters, research has shown that bar and restaurant revenue did not show an appreciable drop after the introduction of a smoking ban.

Smokers just don’t go home after a smoking ban is passed.  Instead, they cut down on their smoking and go outside when they need a smoke.  Some food service businesses actually saw a rise in business after the ban was passed as new customers ventured out because of the new smoke-free environment.

However, specific segments of the industry do not follow this general trend. In particular, blue collar establishments take the hardest hit when a new smoking ban is passed.  Bowling alleys and small local bars have seen as much as a 50% decline in business after the passage of a smoking ban.

While it is unfortunate that some businesses take a huge hit when a smoking ban is passed, the health benefits that are a direct result of banning public smoking are significant, and should really outweigh other concerns.

Heart attacks in public places drop as much as 40% after the enforcement of a public smoking ban.  The air quality of restaurants and bars goes from “dangerous” or “extremely unhealthy” classifications to “normal” and “good” overnight.  The body of evidence linking even small amounts of second hand smoke to short and long term health problems is now overwhelming.

For the food service industry, smoking bans are a reality that must be dealt with.

If you have the bad luck of operating in a segment that will suffer from the passage of a smoking ban in your area, start to develop a strategy for the day the ban arrives, because it will be here sooner or later.  If you have already found yourself under a smoking ban, tell us how it has affected your business.

What are the benefits?  The drawbacks?  Do you oppose or support introducing smoking bans in other states?

About Greg McGuire

Greg has blogged about the food service industry for years and has been published in industry magazines, like Independent Restaurateur and industry blogs like Restaurant SmartBrief. He lives in Colorado with his wife and two sons and enjoys reading, live music, and the great outdoors.

Check Also

Culture Club: Why You Can’t Afford Not to Have Company Culture Goals

Having a good company culture is one of those things that most people would agree …


  1. Illinois is a good place to “study”. As can be clearly seen over the last year, Illinois smokers have been giving the Indiana casinos, bars, and restaurants their full support and blessing with their feet and their money. All the Indiana antis have been doing is shooting off their mouths. Had they done the same as Illinois smokers have done by supporting the non smoking Illinois casinos, restaurants, and bars, people might pay attention to them. As it stands, claims about bans not hurting businesses are falling on a lot of deaf ears. They need to put their money where their mouth is. Illinois casinos are down over 20 percent, Indiana down 1 percent with a recently expanded casino on the Chicago city limit UP 2 percent.

    • Good point Bob, and I think it underscores what this article is saying: certain segments of the food service industry are taking a huge hit as a result of smoking bans. Casinos, bowling alleys, and blue-collar bars are suffering the most.

      I really don’t see why such establishments can’t apply for a special permit to allow smoking as long as no one under 18 is allowed inside.

  2. This ban has been in effect in California for a very long time. A lot of the “blue collar” bars just let people do it anyway and deal with the fines. I’ve been in one of these places when I saw 2 cops walk in the back door and snag the first guy he saw at the pool table, took him out side and gave him a ticket. By the time they came back in everyone had put out their cigarettes and got rid of the ash trays and I’m pretty sure the bar got fined also. It’s a risk people and the establishments are taking. I am a smoker myself and I don’t smoke inside my house, but when I’m at a bar playing pool and enjoying a beer I don’t want to step outside all night long. Most of the places that do have installed special air scrubbers to pull the smoke out of the air anyways. The way I see it there is plenty of places that do and plenty of places that don’t allow it and people who are bothered by it can go to the places that don’t.

  3. The supposed health issues of SHS have been way overstated and in many cases just made up. The heart attack studies are nothing more than a very small sample that fit the proconcieved condition of the researcher. Say you wanted to prove that all quarters land on heads when flipped. You would flip the coin and it lands on tails – throw that out because a random varible. Flip it and it lands on heads……there is your proof.

    This is a link to the tobacco control expert at Boston University. If you scroll down you’ll find the results of a study of all of England. A study had shown a major drop in heart attacks for all of England (using a very small sample).


    • I don’t think it can be made any more clear: the negative health effects of second hand smoke are indisputable.

      The Surgeon General of the United States of America has said as much: http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/secondhandsmoke/factsheets/factsheet6.html

      Another indisputable fact is that nicotine constricts blood vessels and vastly increases the risks of heart disease and heart attacks.

      The sample sizes associated with those conclusions are not small, and in fact result from over 50 years of research conducted by government and tobacco companies.

  4. The negative health effects are not indisputable. You should look at the link that put up. Its from a tobacco control researcher. He is actually for bans, but is against the junk science.

    Now one point – Surgeon General Carmona put out his report. It was just several studies that he hand picked (he left out the UCLA study which published in 2003, because it was finished to late for his 2006 report, it still is the largest shs study and it found no correlation). Within his report it is stated over 100 times there is no correlation. He also stated there is no “safe level” of second hand smoke. Why would there be no “safe level” of the chemicals found in SHS and yet those same chemicals are found in drinking water in federaly mandated safe levels. OSHA who has charge in setting safety in the workplace has studied SHS and found that it would not exceed PELs under any circumstances. You would have to have 117,000 cigarettes lit in a completely sealed room to exceed permissible exposure levels. It should also be noted that right after he put out the report – he quit so he didn’t have to defend it.

  5. Yes nicotine restricts blood vessels – but only the smoker would be subject to that. The levels of nicotine taken in by a nonsmoker are minute. Matter of fact, studies that have show pre ban and post levels of restaurant workers show only a reduction of 50% which sounds like a lot. That until you realize that nicotine is naturally occurring in foods such as potatoes and tomatoes.

    • Say what you want about the Surgeon General’s real motives. The Center For Disease Control is a non-partisan, globally respected authority on disease transmission. Here’s what they say about second hand smoke: (and it’s a lot more harmful than eating a potato, trust me): http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/secondhand_smoke/secondhandsmoke.htm

      As far as the Surgeon General’s decision to leave out the UCLA “study”: it was sponsored by Phillip Morris and it’s methodology has been criticized as ridiculous by the medical and science communities.

      Some of the study’s tactics included:

      Measuring nicotine levels in widows and divorcees of smokers who haven’t lived with their spouse in years.

      Findings were based on only 10% of those who participated.

      The health of subjects in the study wasn’t evaluated after 1972, even though the “observation period” for the study went on for another 26 years!

      WebMD’s take on this bogus study: http://www.webmd.com/lung-cancer/news/20030515/secondhand-smoke-study-raises-ire

      Funny how they found no correlation between second hand smoke and health when the money was coming from Big Tobacco.

  6. In the end, The “evil” smoker will be banned from lighting up unless he can prove he has bought “carbon credits” to assuage the greenhouse gases emanating from the end of his death device (cigarette)–LOL.

    Yes, Virginia, WE to will be CALIFORNIA soon!!

    Kevin Loving
    Galveston Texas
    (Where there was talk about hanging the last politician that brought this up, we couldn’t find any working gallows so we made her move to California)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *