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Another View: The facts are indisputable that smokefree air law is good for Michigan

Publication Date: 2011-07-08
  • Author:Judy Stewart
  • Publication:The Flint Journal

Our Michigan lawmakers have it right. And so do the overwhelming majority of Michiganders. Our smokefree air bill is good for Michigan. Opponents who think otherwise are twisting the facts. They call it a ban when it’s not. People can still smoke. They don’t seem to care that 1,520 people die annually in Michigan from secondhand smoke. They erroneously point to a handful of failed businesses even though economic data shows the law has had no negative impact on Michigan’s economy. Simply put, they have it all wrong.

Michigan is acting on proven science that shows secondhand smoke is a carcinogen that poses serious health risks. Thirty-nine states are now smokefree, and the Centers For Disease Control recently predicted that all states would be smokefree by 2020. We are in the midst of a very positive national trend, years in the making, that will save lives, reduce smoking and avoid millions of dollars of smoking-related health care costs.

The facts here in Michigan are indisputable. A poll conducted by EPIC/MRA in May 2011 among 600 registered voters showed that 74 percent support the smokefree law. This is up 8 percent from the 2009 EPIC/MRA poll before the law passed. Ninety-three percent of respondents said they go out to eat in bars and restaurants just as often (73 percent), or more often (20 percent), than before the enactment of the law. Twenty-three percent of non-smokers polled are more likely to go out and eat in bars and restaurants.

The economic data is equally compelling. Sales tax collections increased for bars and restaurants around 2.8 percent over a four-month period after May 1, 2010, when the law took effect. Sales at family restaurants and cafeterias rose 4.2 percent and sales in places that sold beer and wine, but not liquor, rose 1.5 percent. Night clubs, which appear to be benefiting most from the new smokefree law, saw a 16.67 percent decrease in year-over-year sales tax collections in the six months prior to the enactment of the law. Since May 1, the sales tax collections rose to 0.19 percent above the previous year.

As for claims the Michigan Lottery has been negatively impacted, the evidence clearly shows its downward trend began after its peak in 2007. Club games, like Keno, pull tabs and raffle games were down in 2009 from 2008 already, well before the smokefree law took effect in 2010.

And there’s more good news. The Michigan Department of Community Health has reported that employees of bars around the state have had improvements in their general health since the law took effect. A study of participants working in the same bars and restaurants before and after the law took effect showed a significant decrease in cotinine and NNAL — two chemical compounds that serve as biomarkers for measuring exposure to secondhand smoke. At the same time there has been a 66 percent increase in calls to the Michigan Tobacco Quitline as more and more smokers seek freedom from their deadly habit. These are positive signs that we are on our way to a healthier Michigan.

It’s easy these days to blame politicians for our economic woes and social problems. But not this time. This one they got right. The overwhelming will of the people has prevailed, state heath care costs will be positively impacted, there will be fewer smokers, especially among our youth, lives will be saved and Michigan will be much better off for it.

– Judy Stewart is direcor of state government relations and campaign manager for the Campaign For Smokefree Air of the American Cancer Society Great Lakes Division.