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Statewide smoking ban could boost tourism

Publication Date: 2011-10-30
  • Author:Speros Batistatos

As the voice of Northwest Indiana's hospitality industry, the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority once again will head to Indianapolis to support smoke-free Indiana legislation.

No matter what your personal feelings are about a statewide smoking ban or which side of the debate you are on, you cannot deny that with a smoking ban we all will be healthier.

Establishing smoke-free restaurants is the simplest and most cost-effective way to improve employee and customer health.

A statewide smoking ban created for places where the public gathers, such as bars and restaurants, would benefit the health of all Indiana residents greatly and would increase the number of tourists coming to the state looking for smoke-free hotels.

In recent years, the tourism industry has seen more and more visitors asking which establishments are smoke-free. Visitors are setting the bar for the industry with their expectations. Families and businesses are looking for healthier options when it comes to booking vacations, amateur sports tournaments and events.

The facts prove that banning smoking in public places will not adversely affect business. Studies conducted in New York City and Boston, both popular tourist destinations, concluded that neither city experienced a decline in sales after adoption of their early ordinances limiting smoking in restaurants. In fact, a year after New York City enacted its smoking ban, business activity actually increased in restaurants and bars, and 10,000 jobs were added.

If large cities have smoking bans and their bottom lines haven't been affected, then why can't Indiana level the playing field and focus on one goal, a smoke-free Indiana? A study comparing hotel revenues and tourism rates before and after passage of 100 percent smoke-free restaurant laws in three states and six cities found that such laws do not harm, and might actually increase, tourism.

The Michigan Department of Treasury reported that after the 2010 smoking ban, nightclub and restaurants saw an increase in receipts.

In 2007, Fort Wayne expanded its existing smoking ban to include bars and private clubs. One month after the ban was implemented, bar and restaurant receipts increased by 39 percent across the county.

These numbers further show that Indiana is behind the curve. A unified approach for all counties across the state is needed.

More than 70 percent of Indiana residents don't smoke and don't want to go into a bar or restaurant and come out smelling like an ashtray; therefore, the answer for a need for smoke-free Indiana seems obvious.

We want to continue to bring people to our state and our communities. We encourage you to voice your support to our state representatives and senators to vote in favor of the bill, and to continue working to make Indiana smoke-free.

Speros Batistatos is president and CEO of the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority. The opinions are the writer's and not necessarily those of The Times.

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