The smoking ban did not hurt business in Southern Nevada, a study released Monday by UNLV researchers concluded.
Oh yes, it most certainly did, countered bar owners in the he-said, she-said dispute.
Nancy York, the study’s lead author and an assistant nursing professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said researchers examined 10 years of economic data to form their conclusions.
“Overall, these indicators that people were saying took a hit from the Clean Indoor Air Act did not,” she said.
Tax revenues, employment numbers and tavern closings and openings were among the data researchers analyzed.
“That’s the most irresponsible thing I’ve ever heard out of UNLV,” said Gene Hill, president of the Nevada Tavern Owners Association.
The tavern owners have opposed the ban, which went into effect in December 2006 after voters approved it.
It essentially outlaws smoking in restaurants, child care operations and in bars that serve food. Smoking remains legal in casinos.
Bar owners have testified before the state Legislature that they saw precipitous declines in business immediately after the ban went into effect.
The state Senate voted last week to weaken the ban by allowing smoking in bars that serve food, with some restrictions. The changes, if approved by the Assembly and signed by the governor, would go into effect in December.
The UNLV study was funded through a UNLV President’s Research Award. With York, its authors included Chris Cochran and Jay Shen, associate professors of health care administration and policy, and Keith Schwer, director of UNLV’s Center for Economic Research. UNLV said two people from the Southern Nevada Health District helped in the study.
Hill said that because nearly all of the study’s authors had health care backgrounds, its conclusions should be greeted with caution.
But York said the researchers simply looked at economic data. The data showed that, yes, there was a decline in business, but it began before the smoking ban and it shadowed a similar decline in businesses not involved in the ban.
She said claims by some establishments that the ban hurt business might or might not be true, individually. But it did not hurt business overall in Clark County, she said.
She acknowledged that Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority representatives have said the ban cost the economy $41 million in lost conventions related to the tobacco industry. But she said that there are other groups who will hold conventions only in places where smoking bans are in effect.
She also said that the study’s results match those of similar studies around the nation.
But Hill insisted the study’s methodology was faulty, its conclusions baseless.
“We’ve done our own study,” he said, which indicated each establishment affected by the ban lost an average of three employees because of it.
The ban has been in effect for more than two years, and no bar owner or smoker has been cited by authorities .
Contact reporter Richard Lake at email@example.com or 702-383-0307.