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EXTENDED ONLINE BRIEFING, HAZARDS, MAY 2003
How the tobacco industry makes a packet
And thousands die from passive smoke at work
Medical experts and workers want legal controls
on passive smoking at work. The tobacco and hospitality industries
do not - and are using lies, junk science and deceit to back their
case. Guess who the government is listening to?
The 2003 study in the journal Tobacco Control confirmed the positive impact of smoking bans on hospitality venues.
The researchers found that those studies that concluded smoking bans were bad for business were poor quality. They were four times as likely to use subjective rather than objective measures to estimate the impact and 20 times less likely to be peer reviewed.
Anita Lal, one of the authors of the study, provided Hazards with its analysis of the five UK studies included in the research [see: The smoking gun, below].
The three independent studies, with declared funding sources and no links to the tobacco industry, found no negative impact of existing UK smoking bans in pubs and restaurants. Pub owners reported that business had either increased or remained the same.
Two of the three UK studies found the majority of pubs reported an increase in trade after bans were introduced.
The two studies with unknown funding sources found the opposite, one predicting a devastating 41 per cent drop in pub trade.
Unlike the studies that found real, operational smoking bans had a positive impact, the negative studies were based on the industry's concerns about the introduction of bans, and not on real-life experiences.
The publishers of both the studies warning of a negative impact, the Restaurant Association of Great Britain (RAGB) and The Publican Newspaper, are supporters of the voluntary self-regulation "Charter" promoted by lobbying group Atmosphere Improves Results (AIR).
AIR opposes statutory controls and smoking bans and it is reported to have received funding from the UK tobacco industry [see: Aggressive lobbying, below]. RAGB was one of the five original signatories of the AIR Charter, according to the AIR website.
And a 21 November 2001 article in The Publican Newspaper notes: "The Publican Newspaper and the Publican.com are supporting the Atmosphere Improves Results (AIR) initiative and the Charter Group in their continued efforts to encourage self-regulation within the trade."
Anita Lal and her colleagues conclude that worldwide, all the studies that found smoking bans had a negative impact were funded by sources that were in some way related to the tobacco industry.
Big tobacco knew it couldn't counter the ban arguments itself - so it financed others to do its dirty work instead.
Researchers writing in the June 2002 issue of the medical journal Tobacco Control reveal tobacco manufacturers gave donations to hospitality groups - which the tobacco industry describes as "our greatest potential ally" - as part of an "aggressive and effective worldwide campaign to recruit hospitality associations" in the USA and Europe.
Tobacco industry targets including groups dedicated to lobbying the European Commission.
The 2002 Tobacco Control paper concludes: "Through the myth of lost profits, the tobacco industry has fooled the hospitality industry into embracing expensive ventilation equipment, while in reality 100 per cent smoke-free laws have been shown to have no effect on business revenues, or even to improve them."
This tobacco industry strategy went beyond supporting hospitality organisations. The paper points out "a programme in the UK titled, 'The Atmosphere Improves Results (AIR)' initiative, launched in 1997, received funding from the national tobacco manufacturers association."
A May 2003 ASH report, The tobacco industry, ETS and the hospitality trade, notes: "Internal tobacco industry documents show that the tobacco industry has mounted a major campaign to question the scientific evidence on the health impacts of second-hand smoke and to undermine legislative measures to curb smoking in public places.
"To assist in its campaign, the tobacco industry enlisted the support of the hospitality trade and helped to fund industry-friendly initiatives focusing on 'accommodating' both smokers and non-smokers. In the UK, this is shown most clearly through the example of the tobacco-industry sponsored AIR initiative, which stresses ventilation as a means of dealing with second hand smoke."
AIR's www.airinitiative.com webpage reveals little about its funding sources.
Its "avoid legislation" webpage, however, steers very close to the tobacco industry line. It says: "In other parts of the world where tough legislation has been imposed the hospitality industry has been hit hard. Restaurants, bars and pubs have experienced falling turnover and have had to make staff cuts. Some have even been forced to close."
AIR says its preferred strategy "encourages venue operators to improve staff and customer comfort through improved air quality by upgrading ventilation facilities and/or introducing non-smoking areas."
London-based AIR is among the most vocal opponents of passive smoking legislation, and is the champion of the hospitality industry's "Charter" campaign for voluntary controls.
When evidence showing that each year 1,200 people in the UK die due to passive smoking at work was released at a TUC conference 9 April 2003, accompanied by a call for a legally-binding Approved Code of Practice on passive smoking at work, AIR was quick to respond.
AIR said the report did not paint a true picture of the effects of passive smoking and said independent studies showed "ventilation to be highly effective."
AIR spokesperson Oliver Griffiths said: "There is a real momentum for change, with hundreds of pub companies involved in the process."
The pro-Charter The Publican Newspaper reported: "The voluntary Charter, agreed with the government, set the target of 50 per cent in the industry," adding Mr Griffiths' comment: "We're confident the trade will achieve this."
Except the Charter Group - in a November 2001 deal with the government intended to head off pressure for a passive smoking law - was supposed to have reached the 50 per cent target by the end of 2002.
After presenting a report to the Department of Health on 16 November 2001, Nick Bish, chair of the Charter Group, said: "We agreed to set a target of 50 per cent of all pubs to be Charter compliant by the end 2002. Our report shows that we already have 27 per cent signed-up and we project that we should exceed 60 per cent by the end of next year."
He added: "The report shows that the hospitality industry can self-regulate effectively in this difficult area and that we are in tune with the needs of our staff and the choice of our customers."
And the Charter does not include any requirement to go smoke free. It does not even compel signatories to have smoke-free areas.
Anti-smoking group Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) told Health Minister Alan Milburn on 2 May 2003 that the government's hope that it can still make "fast and substantial progress in partnership with the industry" on smoking bans is misguided.
Amanda Sandford, research manager at ASH, said: "The hospitality sector have had more than enough time to comply with the Public Places Charter and most have chosen to ignore it. The only effective method of protecting the health of workers is to eliminate the tobacco smoke."
The tobacco industry and its friends are playing for time - once bans are implemented, hospitality employers quickly come to appreciate them. And their customers like them too.
The April 2003 edition of the American Journal of Public Health reports a study in California, which has had workplace no smoking rules for eight years, which found most bar-goers said they supported and complied with a similar law two years after it went into effect. While 60 per cent approved of the law three months after it went into effect, that number reached 73 per cent about 2.5 years after the law was in place.
Brendan Barber, who steps up from the post of deputy to general secretary of the TUC in June, said: "Ministers should stop defending the fug-filled snugs of Britain's pubs, which are proving fatal for bar staff and putting off possible customers.
"The Code of Practice is sensible and pragmatic, and it's backed by unions and employers. It will protect the rights of non-smokers and smokers alike, and will end the uncertainty about where employers stand."
CIEH president Brian Hanna, who represents the health inspectors who would enforce the code in service sector workplaces - such as offices, hotels, pubs and clubs - said inspectors "need the government to provide them with the right tools to do the job. Relying on weak voluntary arrangements will simply not have the desired effect."
The tobacco industry will not give up easily however. Recent studies suggest that smoking bans at work also encourage smokers to cut down or give up. Giving up smoking at work could really hurt profits.
The same cannot be said for the public purse. The total savings to government and business, including the National Health Service, could be £21bn, according to an unpublished Health and Safety Commission study [see: Evidence suppressed on benefits of smoking ban, below].
But there is a much higher price to be paid. For every day tobacco interests win a reprieve from government, passive smoking at work will add a further three lives to its tally.
A killer on the loose, the ASH investigation into the threat of passive smoking to the UK workforce, April 2003. [pdf]
S Glantz and others. Tobacco industry manipulation of the hospitality industry to maintain smoking in public places, Tobacco Control, vol.11. pages 94-104, June 2002. [pdf format]
Summary of studies assessing the economic
impact of smoke-free policies in the hospitality industry - includes
studies produced to December 2002. Review of the evidence,
produced by Michelle Scollo and Anita Lal, VicHealth Centre for Tobacco
Control, Melbourne, Australia.
ASH urges Government to eliminate tobacco smoke from workplaces, ASH news release, 2 May 2003
The tobacco Industry, ETS and the hospitality trade, Action on Smoking and Health, May 2003. [pdf]
USA: Organized Labor and Tobacco Control Network - network of union and tobacco control movements, c/o Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, 44 Binney Street, Smith 2, Boston MA 02115, USA. Email: oltcn@dfci.Harvard.edu
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