Thursday, June 04, 2009

Letter to Alderman Carter

Alderman Carter,

Almost all the studies which find no business harm due to smoking bans are conducted by public health people, not professional economists, are peer-reviewed by other public health people, not professional economists, and are published in public health journals, not economics journals. Attached is a very recent article published in an economics journal by a professional economist arguing that smoking bans do harm business. And here is a link to an article on the subject by the same economist in Forbes Magazine.

The premise of Alderman Krewson's smoking ban is that such a restriction would greatly improve public health in St. Louis City. But is that premise true?

Please find attached a just released study by researchers from the Rand Corporation, the Congressional Budget Office, the University of Wisconsin, and Stanford University, "CHANGES IN U.S. HOSPITALIZATION AND MORTALITY RATES FOLLOWING SMOKING BANS", which finds that smoking bans had no effect on hospitalizaton or mortality rates in communities that impose them.

The researchers report:
"U.S. state and local governments are increasingly restricting smoking in public places. This paper analyzes nationally representative databases, including the Nationwide Inpatient Sample, to compare short-term changes in mortality and hospitalization rates in smoking-restricted regions with control regions. In contrast with smaller regional studies, we find that workplace bans are not associated with statistically significant short-term declines in mortality or hospital admissions for myocardial infarction or other diseases. An analysis simulating smaller studies using subsamples reveals that large short-term increases in myocardial infarction incidence following a workplace ban are as common as the large decreases reported in the published literature."

In sharp contrast to this finding, please also find attached a large study of American smoking bans by British researchers which found that bans do not reduce the overall exposure of nonsmokers to secondhand smoke and actually increase the overall secondhand smoke exposure of young children, especially low-income children, as smokers are displaced to private cars and homes. The researchers state:

"While bans in public transportation or in schools decrease the exposure of non smokers, bans in recreational public places can in fact perversely increase their exposure by displacing smokers to private places where they contaminate non smokers, and in particular young children. Bans affect socioeconomic groups differently: we find that smoking bans increase the exposure of poorer individuals, while it decreases the exposure of richer individuals, leading to widening health disparities.

Alderman Carter, Herbie's Vintage 72 has the same Merv 17 99.97 HEPA and HEGA air purification recommended by OSHA and the CDC to protect public indoor places and indoor workplaces from biological warfare and to strip influenza from hospital air in case of a influenza pandemic. Surely it can offer substantial and sufficient protection to the employees at Herbies far beyond OSHA's air qualtity requirements. And the level of air filtration at Herbie's leases for 15 dollar a day.

Casinos, with similar technology, have managed to get their air cleaner than the air outdoors. This paper shows that casinos thru ventilation and filtration can now make their indoor air cleaner than the air outdoors. Tests done at the Bellagio Casino found that RSP concentrations in its air ranged between 12 to 58 micrograms per cubic meter of air (ug/m3). Outdoor air that clean would receive one of the EPA's two best outdoor air quality ratings: Good or Moderate. Less than half of this RSP was found to be tobacco-related. Belagio Casino air is well within the range of 100 or fewer (ug/m3) of tobacco-related RSP that the 1986 World Health Organization guidelines said would be of "limited or no concern".

As long as reasonable measures are taken to clear and clean the air of St. Louis City bars, restaurants and other entertainment venues, public health in St. Louis City is clearly most protected when public policy allows for well-filtrated adult gathering places, where smoking may be permitted, within walking distance of most St. Louis City homes, so people don't have to drive home after drinking. The final study attached shows that drunk driving fatality rates go up in communities that ban smoking since people have to drive far from home to find a tavern or club that allows smoking.

Alderman Carter, I am not paid by any tobacco compay, restaurant association, filtration company or anyone else to work against a St. Louis City smoking ban, and I have no financial interest, now or in the future, in any air filtration company.


Bill Hannegan

Keep St. Louis Free