OBJECTIVE To examine the actual and anticipated costs of a law regulating workplace smoking and smoking in restaurants, taking into consideration observed and anticipated infrastructure costs, lost productivity, increased absenteeism, and loss of clientele.
SETTING AND DESIGN A survey of 401 Québec restaurants and 600 Québec firms conducted by the Québec Ministry of Health before the enactment of the law was used to derive costs incurred by those who had already complied and anticipated by those that did not.
RESULTS Direct and indirect costs associated with tobacco regulation at work and in restaurants were minimal. Annualised infrastructure costs amounted to less than 0.0002% of firm revenues and 0.15% of restaurant revenues. Anticipated costs were larger and amounted to 0.0004% of firm revenues and 0.41% of restaurant revenues. Impacts on productivity, absenteeism, and restaurant patronage were widely anticipated but not observed in currently compliant establishments.
CONCLUSION Firms and restaurants expected high costs to result from strict tobacco regulation because of infrastructure costs, decreased productivity, and decreased patronage. That none of these were actually observed suggests that policy makers should discount industry claims that smoking regulations impose undue economic hardship.
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