Report Says Restaurant Jobs Unaffected by Smoking Ban
Employment in New York City restaurants and bars has increased slightly since the law restricting smoking went into effect on March 30, according to city health officials, defying predictions from critics that the industry would be harmed.
City employment figures for that industry show that jobs increased to 164,900 from 155,200 between March 11 and June 11, the Health Department said. That 9,700-job increase, part of a national trend, also represents an acceleration over the same period last year in the rate of jobs created by New York City restaurants and bars, the department added.
The department issued the report this week in response to the New York Nightlife Association and other critics of the new law, who said that the near-ban on smoking would cause restaurants and bars to lose business and, in turn, jettison employees.
"There's no evidence of a negative impact, and if there were a negative impact, we would have seen it," said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the health commissioner. "A lot of the rhetoric in the industry is off the wall."
But Robert Bookman, the lawyer for the New York Nightlife Association, said the city Health Department's report was wrong.
"It's not the facts," he said, adding that he had researched bar and restaurant employment figures from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. "If you compare June 2003 compared to June 2002, employment is down," a trend that dates back to at least 2001, he said.
The Health Department's figures are "politically motivated," Mr. Bookman said. "We're not surprised that unemployment is up, and yes, we do think it's because of the smoking law."
But the majority of research seems to support the city. Studies in New York, California and elsewhere have shown that new restrictions on smoking in restaurants and bars do not result in a drop in business.
"What New York City is experiencing is entirely consistent with what we've seen all across the country, which is that the predictions of people going out of business are baseless," said Russell Sciandra, director of the Center for a Tobacco Free New York, who has lobbied for smoking restrictions.
Dr. Frieden, and the Bloomberg administration, anticipated charges that the ban would harm restaurants. At a news conference the day the city law went into effect, the commissioner noted that on average, three bars and restaurants fail each day in New York City.
"I'm sure that as of today," he said, "they're all going to be our fault."