Blog: Chris Brook-CarterSmokescreen of statistics

Chris Brook-Carter | 26 March 2004

It is with morbid fascination that Europe’s drinks industry will watch the effects of Ireland’s ban on smoking in public places to gauge the effect on on-trade drinks sales.

The BBC website today quoted figures from DCU Business School, which was commissioned by the Vintners Federation of Ireland and the Licensed Vintners Association, suggesting a blanket ban could lead to an 8% drop in pub sales.

And the industry fears that up to 3,100 jobs could go as a result of the fall in sales.
Customers also don’t seem to want a ban, with a survey finding that 54% were in favour of separate smoking and non-smoking areas in pubs.

However, the pro-ban lobby not only argues the health benefits of such a ban but also directly disagrees on the effects on business. It cites various reports from the New York and California where such a ban is already in place, which argue that the smoke-free environment has actually boosted business.

The Roswell Park Cancer Institute of Buffalo found that New York tax receipts on alcohol rose by 2.8% in August-November 2003 against the same period in 2002, while the number of bars and restaurants licensed to sell liquor rose by 1.1% between October 2002 and October 2003.

Meanwhile, between March and June 2003, 10,000 bar and restaurant jobs were created, surpassing growth for the same period in 2002, according to the New York Labour Department figures.

That said, the anti-smoking lobby is not alone in its use of statistics. International Communications Research found that in New York after the ban, there had been a 17% fall in waiter/waitress jobs, while bartender numbers were down by 11%. Not only that, but 33% of establishments have reported an overall decline in jobs since the ban. Two thirds of respondents say they now have fewer customers than before the ban.

Which set of stats to believe will not become obvious for quite some time yet.


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