As a concerned citizen and volunteer chair of Springfield’s One Air Alliance, I am troubled by Brian Brown’s Oct. 3 article, “Smoking Ban Rattles Bar, Eatery Business.” The article falsely implies that the economic outlook for local business is bleak as a result of the smoke-free ordinance. This is simply not true.
In his piece, Brown only included examples of local bars and restaurants opposed to the smoke-free ordinance. As a result, the editorial is fundamentally flawed. I’m disappointed that you did not hold the article until you could complete an in-depth analysis. Had we had an opportunity to touch base, One Air Alliance could have provided numerous contacts that would have balanced the article and clearly shown that the sky, in fact, is not falling.
In fact, the opposite appears to be true. Since the smoking ordinance went into effect, Springfield sales tax revenues have increased citywide three out of four months when compared to the same period in 2010. In September, the 21.5 percent overall revenue increase was especially significant. Using this objective data, it is tempting for supporters of the ordinance, like me, to argue that a smoke-free Springfield has actually stimulated business during a challenging economic period. Of course, we know that economic indicators are far too complex to make such a blanket statement so soon.
There is no doubt that we face challenging economic times. And there is no doubt that small businesses now find themselves adjusting their models to remain relevant. But there are far too many factors contributing to a company’s success or failure for you to present an unbalanced argument for or against the smoke-free ordinance. Quotes from at least one business featured in the piece indicate that revenue had been significantly declining long before the smoke-free ordinance went into effect. How, then, can you imply the ordinance is responsible for that business closing its doors?
False allegations, supported by cigarette companies and their allies, have accompanied the growth of smoke-free laws nationwide. We see it time and again. Opponents readily proclaim that smoke-free laws will hurt local economies and businesses. In fact, careful scientific and economic analyses show that smoke-free laws do not hurt restaurant and bar patronage, employment, sales or profits in the long term.
At worst, the laws have no effect at all, and they sometimes produce positive trends. A recent example comes from Washington, where the state Department of Revenue noted bars and taverns reported 3 percent more gross income the year after its 2005 smoke-free law and 20 percent sales gains in the second year. For details on these studies, I encourage you to visit OneAirAlliance.org.
In closing, I think it is appropriate to focus again on the reason for the smoke-free ordinance. This is about public health. This is about protecting each and every citizen, employee and visitor of this great community. There is no such thing as a second-class individual. Each and every person has a fundamental right to breathe clean indoor air in public places. It is that simple.
Secondhand smoke is a deadly chemical compound containing a mixture of more than 4,000 chemicals. More than 60 of these are known or probable human cancer-causing agents. Secondhand smoke increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, respiratory problems and cancer, causing more than 35,000 heart disease deaths and 3,000 lung cancer deaths every year.
Employees are especially at risk. It is easy for opponents of the ordinance to suggest that these workers should seek employment elsewhere if they object to smoke.
We would argue that the economic implications of forcing people to choose between clean air and feeding their families is far more detrimental to the economy than any smoke-free ordinance could ever be. We don’t force workers to continue exposing themselves to asbestos. Science has revealed its toxicity. The same is now true for secondhand smoke. Years from now, we will look back and be amazed this was ever a debate.
Thank you for the opportunity to present our side of the smoke-free issue. I look forward to continued, respectful and constructive dialogue.
Respectfully, —Stephen Hall, volunteer chairman, One Air Alliance[[In-content Ad]]
Adrianna Norris became a first-time business owner with the opening of Finley River Chiropractic; PaPPo’s Pizzeria & Pub launched its newest location; and Huey Magoo’s opened its second store in the Ozarks.