Hotel Online Special Report
California Bar Smoking Ban One Year Later: 
Is the Ban Working?
SACRAMENTO, Calif., Dec. 28, 1998 -  -- One year after California banned smoking in bars, taverns and gaming clubs, the National Smokers Alliance (NSA) is urging members of the media and the state legislature to visit their local watering holes and determine for themselves whether or not the ban is working.

"You don't have to look very far to find a bar owner, a city official, a bartender or an enforcement official who will tell you that the ban isn't working," said Tom Humber, president of the NSA. "Whether from lack of enforcement, non-compliance or business loss, the ban has resulted in a patchwork of consequences. We are confident that when the media and legislators see first-hand that the law isn't working, they will agree the purpose and effectiveness of the ban should be reevaluated."

Over the course of the past year, the NSA has monitored news reports from around the state and spoken with bar owners and enforcement officials about the ban. The NSA has identified numerous problems resulting from inconsistent enforcement and varying interpretations of the law. A few examples of the erratic consequences of the ban include:

Business Loss: Bar owners who are complying with the law are losing revenues and bar employees have lost tips. (see attached headlines)

Inconsistent Enforcement: Some areas are heavily enforcing the ban and bar owners and employees are facing economic losses. Conversely, enforcement officials in other areas are not enforcing the smoking ban. Businesses that accommodate their smoking patrons have even experienced an increase in revenues. (see attached headlines)

Non-compliance: Many bar owners and employees, local elected officials and enforcement agencies are simply ignoring the smoking ban altogether. Even in areas where enforcement officials are issuing citations, many bar owners take their chances getting fined rather than lose customers and revenues. For example, in a recent survey conducted by California's Department of Health Services, 52.5% of "stand-alone" bar owners and employees openly acknowledged that they were not complying with the ban. (see attached headlines)

Court Rulings: When citations are issued, they are frequently challenged in court and often, judges are ruling that the law is too vague to fit many of the complaints. The courts also are deciding that there are, in fact, significant exemptions. For example, a Sacramento County judge recently ruled that the ban doesn't apply to Sacramento bingo halls that operate with volunteers and not employees. (see following  headlines)

Humber added that the full potential impact of the ban is yet to come. "Right now, some bars are hurting, but it's business as usual for many bars that continue to allow smoking. If enforcement is stepped up, the rebellion against the ban will grow, and if it is not, non-compliance will increase.

"These examples are just a sampling of the many problems stemming from the ban," said Humber. "When the media and legislators investigate for themselves, I'm sure they'll come to the same conclusion we have: The smoking ban is not working, and this insidious law should be reconsidered.

"The NSA will continue to work with bar owners, employees, patrons, enforcement officials, the media, elected officials and all other interested parties to fight for repeal of the smoking ban."

The National Smokers Alliance is a non-profit organization of adults from across the country dedicated to fighting discrimination against smokers and to supporting business owners who wish to make their own decisions about their businesses without unnecessary government interference. The NSA has more than 3 million members nationwide, including 300,000 in California, and is supported by dues and contributions from three cigarette manufacturers on behalf of their consumers and contributions from hundreds of other businesses and corporations.

Headlines from Across the State

Business Loss

    "Smoke-free bars report fewer tips and more fights." San Francisco Chronicle, May 2, 1998

    "Smoking ban hurting business, bar owners claim." San Mateo County Times, July 18, 1998

    "Bars' woes blamed on no-smoking law.  Fights up, business down, trade group says." Sacramento Bee, May 1, 1998

    "Bartenders say sales have dropped with smoking ban." Contra Costa Times, May 2, 1998

    "Barley and Hopps shut its doors abruptly last week.  Smoking ban blamed for slow down." San Mateo Weekly, July 22, 1998

Inconsistent Enforcement

    "Smoking ban has sporadic policing." San Jose Mercury News, June 14, 1998

    "Smoking ban not enforced, city says." Los Angeles Daily News, September 15, 1998

    "Enforcement of smoking ban is uneven." Paradise Post, August 13, 1998

    "Enforcement clouds issue of smoking ban.  Only three citations issued since January 1." Los Angeles Times, September 21, 1998

    "Smoking in bars isn't being punished." West County Times, September 23, 1998


    "Fresno bar smoking not 'priority.'" Fresno Bee, November 30, 1998

    "Ban on bar smoking has little effect, bars defying smoking ban." Los Angeles Daily News, September 18, 1998

    "Many blowing smoke at Jan. 1 law. Little action against bars where lighting up occurs." Long Beach Press Telegram, September 23, 1998

    "Bars blow smoke in face of ban. Many owners are trying various strategies to sidestep the law." Orange County Register, October 17, 1998

    "City bars gaining a reputation for flouting state law." San Francisco Chronicle, November 30, 1998

    "What smoking ban?.. Californians puff on, despite ban." Associated Press, September 24, 1998

Court Rulings
    "Smokers breathe life into bingo;  Nonprofits enjoy windfall after smoking ban is lifted." Fairfield Republic, November 14, 1998

    "Court win leaves Red Barn smoking." Sonora Union Democrat, October 19, 1998

    "Bar owner tried to enforce smoking ban, judge rules." Los Angeles Times, May 14, 1998

    "County gives OK to bingo, smoking." Sacramento Bee, November 14, 1998

    "Bartender innocent in smoking case." Los Angeles Daily Journal, March 16, 1998

Brandon Castillo 
for National Smokers Alliance, 916-341-1000
Also See: California Saloon Smoking Ban Update / May 1998 
Texas Hospitality Survey Shows Concern Over Smoking Bans / June 1998 

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