The sleazy tobacco lobby will fight tooth and nail to oppose more smoking bans in venues when governments across the country should just get on with it.

To be precise, the multinational tobacco industry could lose plenty if Victoria’s Parliament were to enact comprehensive smokefree legislation.

For that reason, we can expect the tobacco industry no stranger to a dirty tricks campaign, and low in credibility, to rely on its allies to run a campaign claiming smokefree legislation is bad for business.

In fact, smokefree legislation is unlikely to cause an industry wide decline in revenue. Pubs and clubs actually stand to gain from lower costs under smokefree legislation including refurbishment and insurance premiums, plus a reduced risk of litigation from sick staff and customers. They will also pick up non-smoking customers who currently boycott smoky venues.

Of the 37 economic studies compiled by the VicHealth Centre for Tobacco Control, 32 indicated no adverse impact after implementation of such policies in the hospitality industry. Of the handful of studies concluding negative impact, none were published in a peer-reviewed journal, all were methodologically flawed and all were funded by tobacco companies or organisations known to have received support from tobacco companies.

Even a Melbourne survey by Philip Morris in January 2000 (816 respondents) found that people would be more likely to go to pubs and clubs if they were smokefree.

For example, if pubs went smokefree:

* 42.9 per cent of respondents said they would go to pubs more often;

* 46.5 per cent said it would make no difference; and

* 11.6 per cent said they would go less often.

There was a similar response with nightclubs and gambling venues.

Attitudes may have strengthened further in favour of smokefree provisions since then. The Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer at The Cancer Council Victoria, found that the percentage of Victorians in favour of a ban on smoking in gambling venues had increased between 2000 and 2001.

For example, the proportion of Victorians who approve of a government ban on smoking in gaming venues increased from 67 per cent in 2000, to 76 per cent in 2001. Support for smokefree bars increased from 57 per cent to 65 per cent.

The impact of smokefree legislation will also be positive for smokers staff and patrons are likely to smoke less, more likely to make a successful quit attempt, and therefore live longer. ,

The impact on problem gamblers who also smoke will be interesting to monitor for them, smokefree legislation will certainly help them to reduce the amount they smoke and it may force them to take a break from their gambling.

The tobacco industry will prefer to fight smokefree legislation on economic grounds rather than health grounds, predicting economic disaster from such legislation.

However not even Philip Morris US executive David Laufer believed their line, complaining in 1994 that “, 05 the economic arguments often used by the industry to scare off smoking ban activity were no longer working, if indeed they ever did. These arguments simply had no credibility with the public, which isn’t surprising, when you consider that our dire predictions in the past rarely came true.”

The tobacco industry will rely on groups such as the Australian Hotels Association (AHA) to lead their fight against smokefree legislation.

In 2001, the tobacco industry financially supported the AHA in Tasmania to rail against smokefree pub legislation, funding AHA surveys, promotional videos and information packages for Members of Parliament.

The AHA also attempted to blame the State’s smokefree legislation, introduced on September 1, for a decline in sales and employing intentions. An AHA-sponsored survey conducted just four weeks after the smokefree legislation, asked pub operators of their impressions of sales, and their views on why any change was apparent. There is an obvious limitation on impressions as opposed to independently collected, audited (or subject to audit) statements of sales to government authorities. Such data has been the basis of other reputable studies.

While Tasmanian hotel proprietors would have a reasonable idea of their sales in that month, it is unreasonable to ask them to assess which factors affected sales. How could they able to assess the relative impact of the various factors at play? September 2001 was a remarkably atypical month in Tasmania. There was an outbreak of fatal meninngoccocal cases, some of which were sourced to Tasmanian hotels and patrons sharing drinks and cigarettes; the Ansett collapse (Ansett was a big local employer with call centres in the State); and of course the fallout from September 11.

Outlandish claims seem to follow the AHA when it comes to smokefree legislation.

For that reason, their claims deserve close scrutiny given the AHA’s strategic and financial relationship with the tobacco industry.

The AHA’s sponsors include British American Tobacco (BAT), Philip Morris, Cigars Esplendido and Imperial Tobacco . Its various websites devote space to BAT’s views on how to accommodate smoking in hotels, but nothing on the health problems caused by passive smoking or the legal consequences of not providing a safe, smokefree environment.

The national director of the AHA is Richard Mulcahy, the former head cigarette lobbyist for the defunct Tobacco Institute of Australia (TIA).

Mulcahy was involved in moves to block smokefree environments in the ACT in 1994. Mulcahy’s TIA successor Donna Staunton told Philip Morris: “The Tobacco Institute did not want to turn the debate into one about health. The Institute instead provided assistance to the national body of the Australian Hotels Association, 05You will probably be aware that Richard Mulcahy (an ex-CEO of the TIA) is now the national CEO of the AHA.”

As Crikey has previously reported, the AHA also wasted no time in whipping out the political donation cheque book when Victorian Health Minister John Thwaites announced smokefree restaurant plans in November 1999.

The AHA’s credibility is on the line on this issue.

Do they oppose comprehensive smokefree legislation in Victoria that consigns their industry to ongoing litigation threats, rising public liability and workcover premiums, and a sick workforce?

Or, do they break their ties with the tobacco industry and support smokefree legislation?

This approach would be supported by the AHA’s own polling of hotel patrons in Victoria in March 2000. A total of 617 patrons were asked, with no prompting, what they found most unappealing about hotels.

The most frequently nominated gripe (by a considerable margin) was that pubs are too smoky!

ends

And now for some feedback.

Smoking ban in Canada lifted turnover

I worked in British Colombia, Canada, a few years ago, when they introduced a complete smoking ban across all indoor venues, pubs and clubs included. This occurred on the turn of the Millennium, and meant all smokers had to go outside (into minus 12 degree temperatures) to smoke. I can honestly say that it was one of the best initiatives that I saw a government introduce, despite the doom and gloom predicted by the Hoteliers and Publicans Association there was actually a 12% rise in turnover after the bans were introduced (Intrawest Publication March 2000) and myself and friends would choose to go to the pub after work for a social half without the hesitation that to spend 30 minutes in a pub would result in me having to wash all my clothes to rid them of the stench.

Stuart

Peter Fray

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