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Truth or just blowing smoke?

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in Human Resources

Academics backed by advocacy groups see the world differently than business interests do. Imagine that!

Researchers from the University of Minnesota and Ohio State University recently conducted a study to determine whether various no-smoking regulations had an effect on hospitality-industry employment.

In particular, they wanted to find out whether local laws requiring complete or partial smoking bans in bars and restaurants drive away customers, causing workers to lose their jobs. Bar and restaurant owners, who generally oppose smoking bans, have long argued that’s exactly what happens.

The verdict:
In some cases, smoking bans led to job losses; in other cases, they didn’t.

After analyzing almost four years’ worth of data, the researchers found greater job losses in some localities that had instituted smoking bans. However, the difference was not statistically significant.

Normally, a statistically insignificant research finding does not usually lead to broad pronouncements on public policy. That didn’t prevent the study’s research director from concluding, “Because [partial or complete smoking bans] don’t have any differential effect on employment in restaurants and bars, it is obvious that a total ban on smoking is the only way to protect employees and patrons from secondhand smoke.”

As you might expect, bar owners disagreed, questioning the research methodology and the conclusion, which they say the research didn’t support.

But most of all, they questioned who paid for the study: ClearWay Minnesota, a Bloomington-based nonprofit whose aim is to reduce exposure to tobacco and secondhand smoke.

Not that it matters, since Minnesota outlawed smoking in bars and restaurants in 2007.

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