Science or sham? One smoking study clouded in mystery

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July 5, 2004 // UPDATED 2:21 pm - April 25, 2007
By: Scott Russell
Scott Russell

Try to find some research explaining a

smoking ban's economic impact on bars and

restaurants, and "science" quickly becomes

"political science."

Each side of the smoking ban debate

trashes the other side's research.

Smoking ban supporters say scientific

studies show no negative hospitality industry

effects - and in some cases, an economic

upside. They say the tobacco industry

secretly funds studies showing economic

harm - a bias that undermines the results.

Smoking ban opponents say scientific

studies show bans clearly hurt some businesses.

They say results that focus on the

overall hospitality industry - instead of

nightclubs and bars that depend heavily on

smokers who drink - are misleading.

Comments made by Tom Day, vice president

for government affairs for Hospitality

Minnesota, typify the issue's animosity and

loaded language. Day opposed a smoking

ban at the June 7 public hearing of the Minneapolis

City Council's Health and Human

Services Committee.

"These [smoking] prohibitionists will tell

you that the economic impact for this government

mandate on the industry will be

minimal, with self-serving surveys from their

groups and the biased CDC [Center for Disease

Control] that have given them the

results that they wanted," Day said.

(The American Cancer Society, the American

Heart Society and the American Lung

Association funded at least one study ban

proponents use, from Helena, Mont. [see

cover story].)

Added Day, "There are also stacks of studies

from other academia and business

groups that show profoundly negative

effects to the industry."

After the meeting, Skyway News asked

Day for the strongest piece of research to

support his argument that smoking bans

hurt business. He cited a Deloitte & Touche

study done for the National Restaurant

Association.

Proprietary information

Day said he could not provide a copy

of the Deloitte & Touche study, and

referred questions to the National

Restaurant Association.

Brad Dayspring, the National Restaurant

Association's manager of media relations,

provided a one-page executive summary of

the Deloitte & Touche study and a one-page

summary of its methodology. The association

said the research tracked economic

data on hundreds of restaurants over a 10-

year period.

It concluded that restaurants sales felt "a

temporary negative impact" where countywide

100 percent smoking bans were in

effect (excluding bar areas). "The estimated

declines in annual sales ranged from roughly

49 to 55 percent at restaurants where

such bans were enacted two to three years

prior to the survey," it reported.

The association declined to provide the

detailed study; Dayspring said it was proprietary

information. The association never

published the study's results in any trade or

scientific magazine.

The two-page summary "is more than we

have ever given any other member of the

press since that study was done," Dayspring

said.

Critics of the Deloitte & Touche study

include Dan Kelly, grassroots and community

affairs coordinator for the Minnesota

Smoke-Free Coalition. The study's flaws

include the lack of peer review, he said.

(Peer review uses professionals in the same

field to review scientific research, critique it

and ensure its credibility.)

Prof. Stanton Glantz, director of the center

for tobacco control, research and education

at the University of California-San Francisco,

also panned the study. (He got a draft

copy of the study - he doesn't recall how

- and posted it at his "tobacco scam" Web

site, www.tobaccoscam.ucsf.edu.)

Glantz wrote that Deloitte & Touche study

used an overly complex model with 51 variables,

effectively manipulating the data to

justify the conclusions its client wanted.

"None of the 'findings' of the Deloitte &

Touche study refute the large peer-reviewed

literature on the subject that finds that

smoke-free ordinances do not have negative

effects on the hospitality industry," he

wrote.

Glantz's Web site includes the National

Restaurant Association on its list of "tobacco

allies and fronts."

The Web site has a link to a copy of a

$75,000 invoice from the National Restaurant

Association to Phillip Morris U.S.A. for

"restaurant industry research on economic

impact of smoking bans," an apparent reference

to the Deloitte & Touche research.

The document, dated Dec. 11, 2001, was

released as part of a tobacco lawsuit.

Skyway News sent copies of Glantz's

critique of the Deloitte & Touche study

and the tobacco-related invoice to the

National Restaurant Association and

requested comment.

The association chose not to respond.

"We have pretty much gone as far as we

are going to go," Dayspring said. "The comments

that we sent you are pretty much all

that we have."

Tobacco postscript

Glantz's Web site also names the local

Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association

on its list of tobacco "allies," based on

Tobacco Institute contributions it received

in 1995 and 1996.

The Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association

has taken an active role in trying to

shape the Minneapolis smoke-free ordinance

and has opposed a strict workplace

ban. Mike Jennings, its president, is a member

of a city task force crafting proposed

language.

Jennings and the association's Executive

Director, Jim Farrell, both say they want to

steer clear of tobacco money.

Jennings, a Warehouse District bar owner,

said he became president this year. The

tobacco donations predated his tenure, and

he would not accept them in the future.

Farrell, a former state representative,

became association executive director Jan.

1, 1999. He said the only time the association

took money from tobacco during his

tenure - $2,500 from Phillip Morris in 2000

- was when he thought the company was

paying associate fees for Miller Brewing,

which Phillip Morris owned.

He is militantly opposed to accepting

tobacco money, opposes tobacco industry

efforts to push better ventilation as the solution

to second-hand smoke and won't meet

with industry representatives, Farrell said.

Jennings said the association is "absolutely

not" a tobacco ally.

"If I could snap my fingers - and I could

be God for one moment - I would have a

statewide smoking ban," he said.

Smoking ban task force meetings aren't public

The decision won't get made in a smokefilled

room, but the task force drafting a

new Minneapolis smoke-free ordinance is

meeting behind closed doors.

The city-appointed group met for the

first time June 28 in Room 333 City Hall. It

plans two more meetings, Tuesday, July 8,

2:30-4:30 p.m. and July 19, 3-5 p.m. It will

forward its report to the City Council for

its July 23 meeting.

Rocco Forte, former Fire Chief now

assistant city coordinator, chairs the task

force and made the call to close the meetings.

"I want the people on the task force to

be comfortable to say whatever they want

to," he said. "They may not be [comfortable]

with the press in the meetings."

The meeting's starting point was the

comprehensive smoking ban proposed by

City Councilmember Dean Zimmermann

(6th Ward), Forte said. The group also discussed

other possible language, looking at

smoke-free ordinances from Minnesota's

Olmstead County; Duluth; Madison, Wisc.;

Boston and New York.

Task force members could recommend a

specific ordinance, or they could ask for

more time, Forte said. He expressed confidence

the group would have options for

the Council by July 23.

Hennepin County Commissioner Gail

Dorfman, a task force member, said the

county might create its own ordinance

after the city vote. Some mayors have

already requested that the county create a

"level playing field" among area bars and

restaurants, and Dorfman expects some

city councils to pass resolutions to that

effect.

"I suspect after the Minneapolis vote,

we will bring some countywide measure to

the board and see what happens," she said.

"I don't know what it will look like yet."

The City Council charged the task force

to "develop recommendations for an ordinance

that would eliminate unwanted customer

and employee exposure to secondhand

smoke" in restaurants, nightclubs,

coffeeshops and amusements venues.

The Minneapolis task force members

are:

Councilmember Dean Zimmermann (6th

Ward), who authored the original smokingban

ordinance; Councilmember Robert Lilligren

(8th Ward), who is considered a

swing vote; Mayor R.T. Rybak (or

designee); Dorfman.

Gretchen Musicant, Minneapolis Department

of Health and Family Support; Jack

Davis, president of the Hennepin Medical

Society; Kim Bartmann, owner, Bryant

Lake Bowl 810 W. Lake St., and Caf

Barbette, 1600 W. Lake St. (Bartmann has

supported a citywide bar/restaurant

smoking ban.)

Mike Jennings, owner of three Downtown

bars and president of the Minnesota

Licensed Beverage Association (MLBA);

Jeff Moritco, owner, Mayslacks Bar, 1428

NE 4th St.; Greg Ortale, president of the

Greater Minneapolis Convention and Visitors

Association. All three have expressed

concerns about a ban.

Joe and Bonnie Hesla, residents living

near a bar who are of split opinion on the

smoking ban; Jay Rykunyk of the Hotel,

Entertainment and Restaurant Employees

Union; Dr. Ed Ehlinger, director of the University

of Minnesota's Boynton Health Service;

Corrine Ertz, a tobacco control advocate

for the American Cancer Society and a

designee from the Community Prevention

Coalition.

- Scott Russell