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Effect of smokefree bar law on bar revenues in California
  1. Institute for Health Policy Studies
  2. Cardiovascular Research Institute
  3. Box 0130, University of California
  4. San Francisco, CA 94143-1030, USA;
  5. glantz{at}

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    Editor,—In 1998 a California state smokefree workplace law requiring that bars be smoke free went into effect.1 2Both before passage of this law and shortly after it went into effect, the tobacco industry and its allies predicted that it would hurt the bar business. To test the hypothesis that smoke free bar legislation harms the bar business, we obtained total revenues from eating and drinking establishments licenced to serve all forms of alcohol (“bar revenues”) from the tax authorities in California (fig 1). We conducted an analysis of these data following a similar approach to earlier analyses of the effects of smokefree restaurant and bar ordinances on communities.3-4

    Figure 1

    Total revenues from eating and drinking establishments with full liquor licences in California before a state smokefree workplace law went into effect (open circles), after restaurant provisions went into effect (solid circles), and when bars were required to be smokefree (solid squares). Data from quarterly reports of the California State Board of Equalization.

    Briefly, we divided bar revenues by total retail sales to account for underlying economic conditions and inflation and conducted a multiple linear regression analysis with time, calendar quarter, a dummy variable to indicate whether the restaurant provisions the law were in force (0 before 1 January 1995, and 1 afterwards), and another dummy variable to indicate if the bar provisions were in force (0 before 1 January 1998, and 1 afterwards). We also examined the fraction of all “eating and drinking establishment” revenues that were going to those with liquor licenses to see if there was any shift in the mix of business associated with either the restaurant or bar provisions of the state smoke free workplace law. (Note that these bar revenues include both revenues of restaurants that include bars as well as free standing bars.4)

    There was no significant effect of the restaurant provisions of the law on bar revenues as a fraction of total retail sales (coefficient of dummy variable −0.01 (0.04)%, p = 0.811); there was a small but significant positive change in bar revenues as a fraction of retail sales associated with the bar provisions going into effect (coefficient 0.09 (0.04)%, p = 0.029). Implementation of the smokefree restaurant provisions was associated with an increase in the fraction of all eating and drinking establishment revenues that went to establishments with liquor licenses (0.54 (0.27)%, p = 0.054), and a larger increase following implementation of the smokefree bar provisions (0.73 (0.25)%, p = 0.007).

    As with claims of adverse effects on the restaurant5 and tourist6 industries, these data further discredit tobacco industry claims that smokefree bar laws are bad for the bar business. Quite the contrary, these laws appear to be good for business.


    This work was funded by the National Cancer Institute grant CA-61021.