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Epidemiologic and Economic Research, and the Question of Smoking Bans

July 15, 2009

Smoking bans in public places are promoted on the dual basis that they protect the public from “secondhand smoke”—environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), and that bans never harm businesses.

two tumblers with liquor and a lit cigarrette

Smoking bans in public places are promoted on the dual basis that they protect the public from “secondhand smoke”—environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), and that bans never harm businesses. Evidence shows that ETS does not pose health risks nearly as large as many ban advocates claim, and that bans do harm some businesses. Unintended and adverse consequences of smoking bans include (1) harm to smokers if they compensate by smoking more intensely; (2) an increase in drunk driving when smokers drive longer distances to smoke and drink; and (3) less innovation in air-filtration technology that also slows progress in removing hazards other than tobacco smoke.

Author
Michael L. Marlow is professor of economics at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.
mmarlow@calpoly.edu