Smoking Ban Seriously Hurting Small Businesses

RECEIVED Tue., Jan. 10, 2006

Dear Editor,
    While the Chronicle lists the smoking ban as the No. 2 local story of 2005 [“Blue Lines to White Sheets,” News, Jan. 6], we continue to disagree with the way almost all media frame this story. It is not, for most of us involved in the resistance, about smokers' rights. For us is it about individual and business rights, private enterprises, personal responsibility, and free markets catering to legal products.
    While many people think of this issue in the context of health and the sacrifices that are necessary by others for improving public health, many of us think of this issue in the context of freedom and how disturbingly easy it is that a majority of voters can be cajoled into imposing their personal preference on others.
    The fact that almost every article about the issue features a close-up of a burning cigarette corroborates the intended or unintended bias of the press.
    By way of a progress report based on sales tax reports, most of the bars that formerly allowed smoking are down in sales approximately $2,000 per month. Two thousand dollars can be 10% of total sales or 100% of total earnings. Most of the bars that did not have smoking are up on average $2,000. There are many adjustments that have to be made related to patios, level of enforcement, types of entertainment, etc., but the trend is clear: The small business community of bar owners is hurt by this ban because new nonsmoking customers do not show up to offset the loss of smokers. Meanwhile, smokers merely relocate to bars with patios, and the overall impact to Austin public health is negligible.
Paul Silver
Keep Austin Free
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