Zagat Finds Overwhelming Support for Smokefree Restaurants, Bars, and Clubs
Since my wife Nina and I started publishing Zagat Survey guides in 1979, we've found that people often have widely differing points of view -- sometimes even about the same dish at the same restaurant on the same night. There are very few issues of taste
That's why it catches our attention when an issue garners the overwhelming support of the public. And it is clear from our surveys that the vast majority of Americans prefer their restaurants, bars, and clubs to be smoke-free.
Right now, the Philadelphia City Council has the opportunity to heed the wishes of Philadelphians by passing legislation to make all workplaces, including restaurants and bars, smoke-free. In doing so, they will stand on the side of public opinion, as well as sound economic and public health policy.
In the 27 years we've been publishing our surveys, we've come to know the in-depth preferences of consumers when it comes to dining, nightlife, travel and leisure activities. Our local surveys are based on the responses of thousands of people. They are good barometers of public opinion and hospitality industry trends.
We recently surveyed more than 115,000 people for our 2006 America's Top Restaurants guide, and found that 89 percent of all Americans and 83 percent of Philadelphia respondents think smoking should be totally banned in restaurants. Of Philadelphia locals, 72 percent said they would dine out the same amount if restaurants were smoke-free, while 25 percent would dine out more. Only 3 percent said they would dine out less.
Every time the issue comes up, opponents of smoke-free laws argue that these laws would devastate small businesses. The opposite is true. In three years as the chairman of NYC & Company, the official marketing, promotion and tourism arm of New York City, I watched New York transition into a smoke-free city and witnessed the positive impact the law had on our restaurants and nightlife. Our 2004 survey found that 96 percent of New Yorkers were eating out as much -- or more -- after the law took effect. Moreover, studies showed that business receipts and employment increased for restaurants and bars, the number of liquor licenses increased and virtually all establishments were complying with the law.
But the dollars and cents case only supports the most important incentive for passing a smoke-free law in Philadelphia -- the well-documented health benefits. Exposure to secondhand smoke leads to lung cancer, heart disease and other serious illnesses.
I know the Philadelphia City Council and Mayor John F. Street care about the public health, and they also care about the vitality of Philadelphia businesses. For the good of both, City Council should pass the smoke-free air law.
To send a letter in support of smokefree Philadelphia, go to www.smokefree.net/Philly