The Impact of Smoke-Free Policies on Restaurants and Bars

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In 2006, the US Surgeon General concluded that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Fully protecting nonsmokers from exposure to secondhand smoke means completely eliminating smoking in indoor spaces.

Smoke-free policies reduce nonsmokers’ exposure to secondhand smoke and improve health. While the health benefits of smoke-free policies are well documented, the perception that they might negatively affect restaurant and bar business can pose a barrier to the broader introduction and acceptance of these policies.

However, research continually shows that this is not the case. In 2006, the US Surgeon General also concluded that “evidence from peer-reviewed studies shows that smoke-free policies and regulations do not have an adverse economic impact on the hospitality industry.”

Studies at the international, state, and local level consistently reiterate this conclusion. In 2009, the International Agency for Research on Cancer conducted a comprehensive review of 97 studies from 8 countries on the economic impact of smoke-free policies and found that studies consistently conclude that smoke-free policies do not harm business. In the United States, for example, the largest analysis of the impact of local smoke-free ordinances examined 9 states (Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia) and found that smoke-free laws do not have a negative impact on either employment or sales in restaurants and bars.

In fact, in some cases, smoke-free policies produce positive effects for local businesses. For example, just 1 year after New York City’s smoke-free law was implemented, restaurant and bar revenues in the city increased by 8.7% in less than a year.

For more information from CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health, visit


By Brian King, PhD, MPH
Acting Deputy Director for Research Translation
Office on Smoking and Health
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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One comment on “The Impact of Smoke-Free Policies on Restaurants and Bars”

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    Hello Brian King, thank you for bringing this topic to light since it’s a very important issue that needs to be address. We, the public and business owners, need to be more aware of the misconception of smoke-free policies and their effects on revenues of business. We need to learn that these policies do not have any negative effect on business revenues nor employment. On the contrary it can have a positive effect since more healthy people are willing to go to places where they can feel secure from second hand smoke or other threats that may deteriorate their health. I feel that in order to get the message across we first need to make business owners understand the negative effect of second hand smoke and how it won’t affect their revenues. This is especially true, like you said, in restaurants and bars where they are not willing to make changes. The barriers that they have put are a challenge to policy makers since they don’t want their business to have negative effects. In order to make business owners and make policies easy to integrate we need to show them proof that it won’t affect their business. Examples such as the ones you provided and reliable studies where it shows how these policies are not affecting any business and how it has worked in other states are what are necessary to influence many business owners to integrate these policies. Furthermore, I believe that in order to fully make these changes and make business owners understand the full extent of having these policies we need to provide more awareness. At the same time we need to explain the effects of these policies from their point of view and further reiterate that it does not affect their revenues. An important aspect that also needs to be address is to show them how the lives of their customers will change for the better by implementing these policies.

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Page last reviewed: April 24, 2015
Page last updated: April 24, 2015