Ninety percent of Columbia residents would prefer a smoke-free workplace, 69 percent would support laws making all indoor areas of restaurants smoke-free, and 57 percent say they support a ban on smoking in bars, according to a study released by an MU researcher on Wednesday.
Kevin Everett, assistant professor of family and community medicine at MU and co-author of the research, released the study as the City Council prepares to hold a public hearing Monday on a proposed ordinance that would ban smoking in bars, restaurants and other public places.
Everett said the results will have a positive influence on those considering the proposal.
“As a research team, we are pleased to be able to provide some scientific data for people like the City Council to see,” he said. “I believe that this research shows through percentages how common it actually is for people in Columbia to agree with that proposal.”
The study’s findings are based on a telephone survey done by the University of South Carolina’s Institute for Public Service and Policy Research. The institute randomly surveyed 700 people from Columbia households in late May and June and included questions concerning smoking preferences in the home, the workplace and other public places, such as restaurants and bars, that currently allow smoking. There was a margin of error of 3.7 percent.
In some instances, responses from those surveyed were not included in the final calculations, namely when respondents said they did not eat out at restaurants, did not frequent bars or both.
Of the survey participants, 18.5 percent currently smoke, 27.9 percent are former smokers and 53.6 percent have never smoked. Among those who expressed a desire for a smoke-free workplace, 30 percent indicated they would prefer no smoking anywhere at their place of work and 60 percent preferred that smoking be limited to designated outdoor areas.
Heather Baer, a spokeswoman for the Columbia/Boone County Health Department, said she believes the research accurately reflects the feelings of many Columbia residents. She said she does not feel, however, that it will significantly push the issue to one side or the other.
“The survey results are not surprising given what people know about the effects of second-hand smoke,” Baer said. “This research shows that the majority of general residents would not feel affected by a ban on smoking in public places. However, if you were to survey a group of bar and restaurant owners, the results would tell a very different story, and I think that they will continue to have a very strong point to argue as this debate goes on.”
The research was funded with part of a $2.6 million grant from the Missouri Foundation of Health. The grant was given to the research team to conduct surveys on tobacco related topics; Everett said this is the first in a series of related studies.
The council’s public hearing is at 7 p.m. Monday in its chambers at the Daniel Boone City Building, 701 E. Broadway.