Smokefree Workplace Laws Save Lives And Money Without Hurting Business

In State News on March 25, 2009 at 7:39 am

INDIANAPOLIS — In the debate over smokefree workplace laws, both sides brandish research about the health and economic impact of such measures. The studies often contradict one another. That makes it difficult for legislators voting on the issue and reporters covering it to know what to believe.

To help alleviate the confusion, the Indiana University Center for Health Policy conducted a comprehensive review of existing research about the health and economic impact of smokefree workplace laws. It released the findings of that review yesterday.

“There’s a lot of information out there about whether smokefree laws hurt business. Some of that information is intentionally misleading,” said lead author Eric Wright, Ph.D., director of the Indiana University Center for Health Policy and associate dean of the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs at IUPUI.  “As a neutral, university-based research organization, we were able to sort through the conflicting research and draw bottom-line conclusions that should help legislators at the state and local level in their consideration of smokefree workplace laws.”

“What’s more,” said Wright, “Studies based on unverified data or published in journals that are not peer-reviewed are not credible.  Our review shows that when biased, unqualified studies are left out, what remains is clear: Smokefree workplaces are good for business and good for workers.”

Key findings of the research analysis:

  • While secondhand smoke has been definitively linked to many kinds of health problems, the most significant health consequence related to secondhand smoke is death. Some 50,000 nonsmokers die annually in the United States due to SHS-related illnesses. In 2007, 1194 Hoosiers died from diseases definitively tied to secondhand smoke.
  • Servers, bartenders, dealers and other workers in restaurants, bars and casinos may regularly be exposed to high levels of secondhand smoke. The levels of secondhand smoke in bars are 240 to 1,850 percent higher than those in other workplace smoking environments, such as offices, factories, warehouses, hotels and other service-oriented places. Casinos have secondhand smoke levels 300 to 600 percent higher, while restaurant smoke levels are 160 to 200 percent higher than those in other workplace smoking environments.
  • Smokefree workplace laws do not have a negative economic impact on restaurants and bars. Though business owners fear that smokers will stay away from smokefree restaurants and bars, the data show that the hospitality industry has not lost revenue because of smokefree workplace laws. The IU Center for Health Policy’s analysis found that 47 of the 49 studies on the economic impact to the hospitality industry concluded no adverse affect.
  • Smokefree workplace laws do not hurt casino business. While fewer objective peer-reviewed studies have been conducted on this issue, available research shows no negative revenue impact on total gambling revenue or the average revenue per machine.
  • The public supports smokefree casinos. Surveys show that 70 percent of New Jersey residents and 91 percent of California residents prefer smokefree casinos. 
  • Smokefree workplaces save employers money. Employers who protect their workers from secondhand smoke see savings as a result of improved worker health. Workers are more productive and less likely to be absent, and their employers also enjoy reduced health insurance costs and facility maintenance costs.
  • Secondhand smoke exposure costs Indiana money. Indiana spends $390 million dollars per year on healthcare costs related to secondhand smoke in the workplace.
  • Hoosiers support smokefree workplaces. Three out of four Hoosiers support smokefree workplace laws.

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