Smokers Still Hungry

If your city has debated a ban on smoking, you're no doubt familiar with the usual argument raised by the restaurant industry, that such a ...
by | July 5, 2006

If your city has debated a ban on smoking, you're no doubt familiar with the usual argument raised by the restaurant industry, that such a ban will hurt business. But a new study out of Montgomery County, Maryland, shows that restaurant sales tax collections have actually gone up by nearly 20 percent since a local ban went into effect.

This Washington Post story quotes a lobbyist with the state Restaurant Association complaining that the study is skewed, because it includes restaurants that have long had voluntary smoking bans in effect. He suggests that it would be more accurate to run a direct comparison of individual venues to see how they have fared after being forced to show smokers the door.

There may be some validity to that. But this study, along with similar ones conducted elsewhere, suggest what I have long thought. Just because smoking is prohibited doesn't mean that smokers are going to stay at home every night. If you have a jurisdictional ban, they'll come out to eat and drink even if they have to step outside to light up.