View Full Version : A letter to owners of restaurants, bars and nightclubs ...

19th August 2011, 11:40 AM
that allow smoking; economic impact of smoking bans.

Hello Hardworking men & women,

It was a pleasure meeting over a hundred of you in the year 2007 when I was conducting my research on your workers’ exposure to pollution caused by secondhand tobacco smoke and your perception on smoking in public places. I also will forever be indebted to you for providing me momentary utopia anytime I visit your establishment on leisure. I must admit life without your establishment and employees would be less worthy.

As the calendar gradually moves towards the debate on the tobacco bill in parliament, the tobacco industry and their advocates as expected have started their usual clandestine activities trying to illegitimately convince you that studies have also been published purporting to prove that smoking bans in public places are bad for business. The fact of the matter is we can list numerous studies that prove that smoking bans have no effects on economic gains or losses. We can also find numerous studies that prove that smoking is good for business and studies that prove otherwise. I would like to emphasize that, irrespective of the study findings; they all believe ban of smoking in public places prevents diseases. Also, one common issue with these studies is that, for most part they tend to measure profit as in net cash benefits externalizing the disease cost of the workers and patrons, and the soft benefits such as worker health, punctuality and worker retention.

Now, allow me to draw some differences between the studies that purports smoking ban improves or is benign to business and studies that purport that smoking ban hurts business.

Firstly, most of the publishers of studies that find smoking ban hurt business are sponsored by the tobacco companies whose main interest is to maximize profit through tobacco sales whiles most of the studies that prove otherwise are sponsored by non-profit public health promotion organizations whose main interest is to prevent diseases and promote health. I find therefore, the objectivity of studies that reports smoking ban hurts the economy questionable since their sponsor’s main objective is to maximize financial profit through the sales of cigarettes. I also think non-profit public health funded study has a lesser propensity to be biased since the research results neither do not lead to financial gain nor losses to their organization.

Secondly, most studies that reported loss in revenue due to smoking ban in public places were conducted in places with high smoking prevalence. Additionally, the smokers had an option to travel within a short distance to another smoking permitted bar, restaurant or nightclub. I want to assure you that the scope of enforcement of this tobacco bill would be national such that no public place would allow smoking hence preventing the advantage of establishments that would allow smoking. Also most people that like to hang-out at public places such as the nightclubs and bars are non-smokers and we should not forget that we are losing lots of revenue because a significant number of non-smokers and their families would rather stay home than to be exposed to the perils of tobacco smoke.

Thirdly, my dear hardworking owners of public places, let us ask ourselves that, why is smoking banned in all banks, hospitals, government agencies, in the planes and most ‘decent’ and ‘professional’ enterprises but not our noble small scale enterprises and places of employment? Presently in Ghana, no one can smoke in anyone’s workplace – unless of course your workplace happens to be a bar or nightclub! The irony is, research has shown that bars and nightclub workers are exposed to greater levels of tobacco smoke than any other occupational group. Is it because patrons and lawmakers do not regard your enterprises or your jobs? I am sure, based on my interview with you in 2007 that 80% of you are allowing this to go on because of the erroneous impression that banning smoking in your enterprise would lead to loss of revenue – you may be right to some extent especially if the ban is not nationwide and not properly enforced. Now that we know an objective and convincing international body of evidence show the positive or benign association between financial gain and smoking ban, I think you the owners of smoking public places should actually lead the advocacy and enforcement of this life saving bill.

Fourthly, most of the members of your association support a proposed ban of smoke in public places, I am therefore appealing to you to make a public statement on your position on this matter. After all it is only patriotic to join in national debates. Lastly, I would take this opportunity to remind you about the clear linkage between smoking and secondhand tobacco smoke and the rising incidence of cancers, heart attacks and stroke among our population. The good news is, in other countries smoking bans have been able to reduce smoking related disease incidence significantly. We should also not forget that smoking imposes considerable direct and indirect cost on increase in healthcare cost, absenteeism, and higher employee turnover rate.

I would leave you with two quotes from former employees of the tobacco industry. “When CTR (Council for Tobacco Research) researchers found that cigarettes were bad and it was better not to smoke, we didn’t publicize that”

- Dorothea Cohen, former employee for Council for Tobacco Research (CTR) employee in the Wall Street Journal, 02/11/1993.

“Younger adult smokers are the only source of replacement smokers...If younger adults turn away from smoking, the industry must decline”.

- R.J. Reynolds, 02/29/1984.

Thank you, Sincerely, Wil Agbenyikey, MPH, Sc.D Candidate & the smokefreeghana.com Syndicate