Saturday, September 02, 2006

Madison Smoking Ban: World Not Ending, Film At Eleven

by Tom Bozzo

In the Capital Times, Mike Ivey reports on the employment effects of the city smoking ban, and provides a 'know your economic data' moment:
Still, the struggles of some taverns aren't reflected in the latest estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which show employment in the food and beverage industry up by some 900 workers in the Madison metropolitan area over a year ago.

Employment in the food and drink business was at 23,000 in July 2005, according to the bureau, and did drop following the smoking ban, hitting a low of 21,400 in January 2006. But employment has since rebounded, reaching an all-time high for the industry.
The temptation to draw the conclusion that the decline in food and drink employment between July '05 and January '06 was caused by the ban should be resisted. The data in question (the green line in the graph below) are not seasonally adjusted; food service employment peaks every summer and reaches a trough every winter. At a quick glance, nothing unusual seems to be happening at all (*).

Picture 2

This isn't to say that the ban has had no effect. I've heard trustworthy reports (i.e., not frequently quoted complainers) of adverse effects of various magnitudes on specific establishments. But the Madison alcoholic drink-dispensing business clearly remains viable, and the Bush Administration's Surgeon General (repeat: the Bush Administration's Surgeon General) report on secondhand smoke makes it clear that the ban addresses a serious public health issue.


(*) The blue line, which is the series preferred by the authors of a discredited Chamber of Commerce report on the effects of the proposed sick leave ordinance, shows a relatively deep winter '06 trough followed by a strong peak. I'm not sure what might be going on there. But you wouldn't expect the smoking ban to have much effect on leisure and hospitality ex food service.
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