It has been more than two years since a citywide smoking ban — which prohibits smoking inside any bar or restaurant — went into effect in Columbia. Two years later, many bar and restaurant owners say they are feeling the effects of the smoking ban and they’re not all positive, according to a recent report in Vox magazine.
Steve Reynolds, owner of Cody’s, told Vox his business has dropped 40 percent since the ban went into effect. He says to compensate for the losses, he has been forced to build a $5,000 deck to accommodate customers who would like to smoke.
“What upsets me is it’s a legal substance,” he says. “If they’re so set on saving people’s lives, then stop selling cigarettes inside the city limits, too.”
One of the reasons the ban was implemented was to improve the health of non-smoking customers and employees who were subject to secondhand smoke, something that is nearly impossible to regulate without banning all smoking. According to the American Journal of Public Health, there is a 24 percent increase in the risk of lung cancer among employees exposed to secondhand smoke in the workplace.
And many local bar and restaurant owners and employees are pleased with the effectiveness of the ban, the Vox report said. The management at Flat Branch Pub and Brewing elected to make the restaurant a smoke-free establishment prior to the ban because they thought customers would prefer it that way. Employees responded favorably.
Others maintain that restaurant and bar employees have the choice to work in a smoking or non-smoking environment and smokers should have that same freedom.
Is it time to revisit whether or not the smoking ban is working for Columbia? Should we consider exempting bars?