SAN ANTONIO (May 25, 2010)—If San Antonio ends up prohibiting smoking in indoor workplaces, its restaurants and bars are not likely to lose patrons to the few and geographically separated establishments outside the city limits that do allow smoking, according to a new analysis by the Institute for Health Promotion Research at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.
The analysis identified and mapped the 165 licensed-to-serve alcohol establishments in 30 incorporated towns outside San Antonio, but within Bexar County.
The vast majority (117) of those establishments already are smoke-free.
The remaining 48 that do allow smoking are fairly geographically separated from each other and, even if weighed as a whole, don’t have the capacity to sustain an influx of smoking customers if San Antonio prohibits smoking in its bars and restaurants, an action that polls show would be supported by two-thirds of registered voters.
“Our analysis and data show that a comprehensive smoking ordinance would not have a detrimental effect on the city of San Antonio’s bar and restaurant industry,” said lead author Courtney A. Denton, research associate with the Institute for Health Promotion Research (IHPR), whose researchers authored the report on behalf of the San Antonio Tobacco Prevention and Control Coalition. “We believe the ordinance would actually benefit the industry, help smokers kick the habit and improve air quality.”
View the report at: http://ihpr.uthscsa.edu/Files/Salud/tobaccoGIS.pdf.
The report comes on the heels of a press conference May 7 in which San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro said he would push for a strong anti-smoking ordinance.
Although smoking has leveled off in the U.S. population, it has increased among young adults, especially those who are “social” smokers who smoke when socializing at restaurants, bars and pool halls.
Social smokers don’t consider themselves smokers, so they’re less likely to try to quit and more likely to continue smoking as they age, placing them at greater risk for addiction and related health issues, such as lung cancer and premature death. Social smoking also is dangerous for employees and other patrons exposed to secondhand smoke in workplaces. Among Latinos, a majority population in San Antonio, young Latino men were identified as social smokers and the most at risk for tobacco addiction.
Studies have shown that comprehensive smoke-free ordinances reduce non-smokers’ exposure to secondhand smoke, reduce adult smokers’ average daily cigarette consumption and increase their quit attempts.
In Texas and San Antonio, polls by Baselice and Associates show that more than 66 percent of people would support a stronger ordinance on smoking in all indoor workplaces.
But how does such an ordinance affect restaurants and bars?
In El Paso, which implemented the strongest smoke-free indoor air ordinance in Texas in 2002, a study in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report in 2004 analyzed sales tax and mixed beverage data during the year before and year after the new ordinance. The study found no statistically significant changes in restaurant and bar revenues after the ordinance.
To determine the economic effect of a comprehensive San Antonio ordinance, the IHPR report identified all the establishments licensed to serve alcohol outside the city limits in Bexar County. Researchers called each establishment to determine if they allowed smoking. The results then were mapped using a geographic information system (GIS) analysis.
Establishments that allow smoking did not exist in sufficient number (48) or locations to significantly divert customers away from San Antonio, according to the analysis.
Baselice and Associates polls also show that 23 percent of registered San Antonio voters would actually go out to local restaurants and bars more and 61 percent would go out the same as a result of a smoking prohibition.
Again, that’s not to mention the obvious health benefits.
“Prohibiting smoking in indoor public places across San Antonio would reduce the average daily cigarette consumption and lead to an increase in quit attempts, especially among the most at-risk populations, young Latino men and social smokers,” said IHPR Director Amelie G. Ramirez, Dr.P.H., professor of epidemiology and biostatistics and the Dielmann Chair in Health Disparities in the Health Science Center School of Medicine.
The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, one of the country’s leading health sciences universities, ranks in the top 2 percent of all U.S. institutions receiving federal funding. Research and other sponsored program activity totaled a record $259 million in fiscal year 2009. The university’s schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and graduate biomedical sciences have produced 27,000 graduates. The $753 million operating budget supports six campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. For more information on the many ways “We make lives better®,” visit www.uthscsa.edu.
The Institute for Health Promotion Research (IHPR) investigates the causes and solutions to the unequal impact of cancer and chronic disease among Latinos in San Antonio, South Texas and the nation. The IHPR, founded in 2006, is based at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio with a satellite office in Harlingen, Texas. The IHPR uses evidence-guided research, training and community outreach to improve the health of those at a disadvantage due to race/ethnicity or social determinants. Visit the IHPR online at http://ihpr.uthscsa.edu.