Ten states have adopted smoking bans in the past decade, including California, New York and Massachusetts, as well as several hundred individual cities and counties. It would seem that bans on smoking in public places are on the march across the country.
But two recent high-profile efforts to stamp out public smoking have stalled. In Chicago this week, restaurateurs won a temporary stay against a smoking ban. And in Washington, D.C., this past summer, the city council tabled a proposed ban after discussing it for months.
Predictably, business advocates argue that smoking bans will hurt revenue in bars and restaurants. Patrons who want to smoke, they say, will end up staying home. But the experiences of jurisdictions that have instituted bans simply don't support that argument. In Lexington, Kentucky, for example, the ban's effect on bars and restaurants has been minimal, and in Massachusetts, revenues have actually increased under the ban.
So it's likely that the recent developments in Chicago and D.C. are just bumps on the road to more and more local and state bans against smoking. Business advocates will undoubtedly continue to oppose the bans, claiming that they spell doom for local revenues. But until they're able to show some actual evidence of that, the bans seem likely to keep gaining in popularity.
For a comprehensive list (in PDF format) of places with smoking bans go to http://www.no-smoke.org/goingsmokefree.php?dp=d13|p140