Going Smokefree: Good for Health, Good for Business

“Will this hurt my business?” It is the question that comes up quite often when business owners consider making their establishment smokefree. Years of analysis and research prove that the answer is no. In fact, eliminating secondhand smoke may lead to financial gains by improving the health of employees and reducing sick days and health care costs.

Many bars and nightclubs across Florida still allow smoking indoors, which exposes thousands of patrons and employees to the deadly effects of secondhand smoke. Breathing in the nearly 70 toxic chemicals that are contained in cigarette smoke dramatically increases your risks of developing lung cancer or heart disease. In 2010 alone, 2,520 Floridians who were non-smokers died from exposure to secondhand smoke. Even exposure to small doses of polluted air can be harmful to your health and the U.S. Surgeon General warns that there is “no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.”

Implementing smokefree policies can protect customers and staff from smoking-related illnesses without damaging a business’ bottom line.

Bar, nightclub and other business owners don’t have to take our word for it. Look at the 25 states and the District of Columbia who have already banned smoking in bars and nightclubs without seeing negative economic impacts. Despite all the research that has been completed in cities and towns across the country, not one independent study has demonstrated that smokefree laws adversely affect the bar industry. These included studies in California, Massachusetts, Oregon, Texas, New York, Maryland and Kentucky (a state with high rates of smoking ) that have all concluded these policies have no negative economic effect.

Public opinion is also shifting in favor of smokefree policies. Surveys and polls are showing that customers actually prefer places where they will not be subjected to the deadly effects of secondhand smoke.

A 2009 survey of Montana residents found that nine in ten adults say they will visit establishments as often as or more often than they did prior to the implementation of the law banning smoking in bars. And nearly three-quarters of respondents in an Ohio survey believed that bar employees should be protected from secondhand smoke in their workplace.

The business community is lining up to support smokefree policies as well. Chambers of Commerce from Anchorage, Alaska to Philadelphia have announced their support for banning smoking in businesses. Even those who were once against such policies have reversed course. “I must admit that, at the time the [smokefree bar and restaurant] ordinance was presented, we were extremely wary of it,” said David E. Garth, President and CEO of the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce in California, in a 2003 letter to the Washington, D.C. Council. “Suffice it to say, our initial fears were unfounded and today, I’m pleased to report that the effects have been extremely positive.”

It’s important to keep in mind that four in five Florida residents do not smoke. These people should not fear developing a smoking-related illness every time they visit their favorite establishment. Considering the overwhelming health benefits of protecting employees and patrons from exposure to secondhand smoke and the economic research into smoking bans, there is a compelling case for Florida bars and nightclubs to go smokefree.

For more information on how Tobacco Free Florida can help your business establish an employer cessation program or implement a tobacco free grounds policy, please contact employercessation@flhealth.gov.