Smoking Bans

What's the value of all those hospitality industry studies?

From: Forces Netherlands

Anti-smoking organizations always come up with studies that seek to prove that there would be no economic damage caused by smoking bans. Recently, STIVORO (a Dutch anti-smoking organization) came with the following press announcement:

No jobs will be lost if the hospitality industry goes smoke free. In some cases the number of jobs increased because of the ban. That is the result of a study done by leading researchers in the United States and Australia. They analyzed 90 studies worldwide about the economic effects of smoking bans in the hospitality industry. Protecting the staff and visitors against second hand smoke has no negative economic consequences. This conclusion is the opposite of claims by the hospitality industry. STIVORO thinks that the employment argument is just a myth.

Forces Netherlands imported the results of the study done by Australian researchers into a database and did its own analysis. We think that the quality of the Australian study is in doubt. Introducing an anti-smoking policy based on this study is ridiculous.

Table 1

#

%

Funding Category

23

22

Government
Pharmaceutical Industry

8

8

Tobacco Related

23

22

Non Governmental Organizations

28

26

Hospitality Industry

13

12

Independent funding

4

4

Unknown

2

2

University

5

5

Total

106

100

We used the data published by VicHealth to do a few important analyses:

  • In contrast with the Australian researchers (they only tried to find out if a certain study had links with the tobacco industry), we also tried to determine if other interest groups are involved in these kinds of studies.
  • We also analyzed publication policies: were studies published in a scientific magazine and what kind of scientific magazine?
  • What kind of smoking bans were analyzed and in what branch of the hospitality industry? Undoubtedly, partial bans (smoking sections) in big hospitality businesses will do only a little harm. It is expected that bars will lose much more money than restaurants.
  • And finally: which studies also analyzed the increase of unemployment in the hospitality industry?

Interest groups

The details show that there are more or less three interest groups:

  1. Groups interested in showing that there is no economic damage (pharmaceutical industry, health industry, governments)
  2. Groups interested in showing a negative effect (tobacco industry, hospitality industry)
  3. Independent researchers like universities if they are not paid by one of the two above mentioned interest groups.

The division into three interest groups was mainly based on the funding. The greater part of the studies was done by the anti-tobacco lobby (56%), 34% of all studies had ties with the hospitality or tobacco industry and 10% could be considered independent (2% had an unknown source of funding). Note that independent and university studies are more likely to be funded by the traditional heavy funders (the antismoking groups) than by prosmoking forces.

Table 2:
Categorisation

Interest category

Anti-tobacco

Independent,
University,
Unknown

Free
Choice 

#

#

#

Funding Category

23

.

.

Government
Pharmaceutical Industry

8

.

.

Tobacco Related

.

.

23

Non Governmental Organizations

28

.

.

Hospitality Industry

.

.

13

Independent funding

.

4

.

Unknown

.

2

.

University

.

5

.

It becomes very interesting if you take a look at the results of the studies while keeping those interest groups in mind. There is almost a 100 % correlation between interest group and results (confirmed by a variance analysis). We see that 100 % of the studies done by anti-tobacco researchers does not find any negative effect of smoking bans. The majority of the anti-anti-tobacco studies shows a negative effect after a smoking ban has been introduced.

Table 3:
Positive/negative impacts found per funding category

Conclusion of
negative Impact?

Total

No

Yes

%

%

%

Funding Category

100

-

100

Anti-tobacco
Free Choice

6

94

100

Independent, University, Unknown

71

29

100

(- = no data available)

It’s very clear that anti-smoking studies suffer extremely from what we call Publication Bias. Whoever pays for the study decides which results are wanted. The publication bias alone is already enough reason to conclude that anti-smoking studies are unreliable.

Publication policy

The Australian researchers were very proud to mention that almost all studies that showed no negative effect of smoking bans had been published in scientific journals and had been peer reviewed. Peer review means that researchers who have not taken part in the study review the results of a study. That’s why peer review normally stands for an independent review.

Table 4

JournalType

Economic journal

Hospitality biz related

Medical or Health related

#

%

#

%

#

%

Funding Category

.

.

1

4

21

84

Anti-tobacco
Free Choice 

1

4

.

.

.

.

Independent, University, Unknown

.

.

1

4

1

4

Total

1

4

2

8

22

88

One would expect that this kind of study would be published in economic journals, which in fact didn’t happen. Almost all the studies were published in anti-smoking friendly journals. Table 4 shows in what kind of journals the results of the studies were published in when researchers mentioned that the studies had been peer reviewed. 84 % of all studies were published in medical and/or health-related magazines. This means that the studies have been peer reviewed by colleagues with the same negative attitude towards smoking. The statement that the quality of these studies is high because almost all of the studies have been peer reviewed is meaningless.

The only study of all 106 analyzed studies that was published in an independent economic scientific magazine was tobacco-industry related and found a negative economic result because of smoking bans.

Types of smoking bans

It makes no sense to study the hospitality industry as a whole. That would be like comparing apples and pears. The effects of smoking bans in bars differ from those in restaurants or take-aways. It is widely accepted as fact that visitors to bars smoke more than visitors to restaurants. Therefore it is necessary to differentiate between bars, restaurants and bars+restaurants. The same applies to partial and total smoking bans..

Table 5:
Absolute numbers

Was there differentiation between bars, restaurants and other places?

All public places

Bars only

Bars+
Restaurants

Restaurants only

Workplaces only

#

#

#

#

#

Funding Category

2

9

16

32

.

Anti-tobacco
Free Choice

5

1

9

18

1

Independent, University, Unknown

2

2

4

3

.

Total

9

12

29

53

1

It appeared that most studies only included restaurants, a sector that can be expected to suffer less from smoking bans than bars. Only 12 out of 106 studies included bars only. It is completely wrong to state that the results of the restaurant-only and/or mixed studies are a good indication of the effects of a smoking ban in bars.

If we take a look at only restaurants or bars, it appears that the well-known Publication Bias plays a huge role. One would expect that bars suffer more from a smoking ban. The only thing we can see is a relationship between the results of the study and the producer/funder of the study:

Table 6:
Analysis for Total bans
Bars/Restaurants only

Was there differentiation between bars, restaurants and other places?

Bars only

Restaurants only

Conclusion of negative Impact?

Conclusion of negative Impact?

No

Yes

No

Yes

#

#

#

#

Funding Category

8

.

26

.

Anti-tobacco
Free Choice 

.

1

1

16

Independent, University, Unknown

1

.

1

.

Total

9

1

28

16

One would also expect that climate plays a role. Clients who have to smoke outside will be more willing to do so if the weather is fine, as in California, where people can smoke on the terraces. In the studies you can’t see any possible effect of climate:

Table 7:
Absolute numbers

Climate

Cold

Warm

Conclusion of negative Impact?

Conclusion of negative Impact?

No

Yes

No

Yes

N/A

#

#

#

#

#

Funding Category

35

.

24

.

.

Anti-tobacco
Free Choice

2

21

.

12

1

Independent, University, Unknown

6

2

2

1

.

It is clear that we have – again – a producer/funder effect.

A large number of studies only investigated the effects of partial smoking bans. It appears that especially the studies financed by Big Pharma did so. It is easy to understand that these studies about partial bans are not reliable and cannot be compared with other studies.

Table 8:
Ban types per funding category

Type of ban

Total

Partial ban

Total ban

%

%

%

Funding Category

13

87

100

Government
Pharmaceutical Industry

63

38

100

Tobacco Related

14

86

100

Non Governmental Organizations

18

82

100

Hospitality Industry

-

100

100

Independent funding

25

75

100

Unknown

50

50

100

University

40

60

100

Most of the tobacco-related studies and the studies funded by the hospitality industry dealt with total smoking bans.

Loss of jobs

Table 9:
Absolute numbers

Were layoffs analysed?

No

Yes

#

#

Funding Category

58

1

Anti-tobacco
Free Choice 

30

6

Independent, University, Unknown

11

.

Total

99

7

The number of layoffs shows clearly the economic effect of smoking bans. It appears that only studies financed by tobacco industry and hospitality industry also looked at the number of layoffs. Most of the other studies only tried to find if there were decreases of turnovers.

Conclusions

  • Most studies were done by the anti-smoking organizations themselves, without any critics from independent experts (economics). Studies about the financial effects of smoking bans in the hospitality industry are unreliable due to Publication Bias. Logical differences in effects among different kinds of smoking bans are not traceable in the studies, because the influence of the interest group who did and/or financed the study is overwhelming.
  • There are almost no independent studies available.
  • Results of studies, if peer reviewed, are only handed to colleagues with the same negative attitude towards smoking.
  • If the effects of smoking bans would be beneficial to the hospitality industry, they would not try to show negative conclusions in their studies. They have no interest in doing so.

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