Study Says Smoking Ban Has Not Hurt Businesses
(AP) -- A year-old smoking ban in Lexington hasn't affected business in bars and restaurants, according to a study released Monday.
Opponents of the ban warned that it would hurt such establishments.
"Given the data we have to this point ... we're not seeing a post-ban effect," said Eric Thompson, an economist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and one of the study's authors.
The University of Kentucky study looks at employment figures from restaurants, bars and hotels, business openings and closings and payroll withholding taxes since the ban, passed by Lexington's Urban County Council, went into effect in April 2004.
The study compares the post-ban numbers to the same data from up to five years before Lexington went smoke-free in most public places.
The study was a joint effort by the Tobacco Policy Research Program and the Gatton College of Business and Economics. It was paid for by a UK internal research grant program.
It will play a role in whether the Urban County Council decides to rewrite the ordinance, said Councilman David Stevens, chairman of a committee that will evaluate the ban after its one-year anniversary later this month.
The committee, consisting of proponents and opponents of the smoking ban, will have until July 10 to recommend any revisions to Lexington's law.
The committee will also consider a study that the Lexington-Fayette County Food and Beverage Association is expected to release within the next month.
Some of the UK study's findings are contradictory. In the five months following the ban, restaurants hired about 3 percent more employees, and bar employment remained stable.
But the study found that employee tax withholdings from restaurants decreased 12.5 percent after the ban, and employee tax withholdings from bars dropped 5 percent.
However, the decrease did not appear to be caused by the smoking ban, according to Mark Pyles, a research assistant on the study. Withholding taxes in the first few months of 2004 - before the ban was enforced - were lower than normal as well.
The study found that, after the ban went into effect, the average number of restaurant and bar openings and closings varied by less than 2 percent from the average number of openings and closings in the four years before the ban.
The study's authors concluded that, given fluctuations seen in other years, the changes were not significant, Thompson said.