Banning smoking will not harm hospitality industry profits, claims a new report presented at the Smokefree Europe 2005 conference in Luxembourg.
Luk Joossens, advocacy officer for the Association of European Cancer Leagues, which produced the report, rubbished tobacco company claims smoking bans destroyed pub and bar sales.
"Rigorous analysis of studies from Ireland, New York, British Columbia and other places shows that smoke free legislation does not damage profits. In some places it could even have a positive effect," he said.
Instead, Joossen's research suggests a Europe-wide trend to drink alcohol at home rather than in bars and pubs is the real reason for falling sales in countries that have already introduced smoking bans.
He said that despite claims by Irish hospitality representatives, pub alcohol sales have declined 15% to 20% since the introduction of last year's smoking ban, the actual decline in alcohol sales remained in line with a negative trend that started in 2002.
In the UK, alcohol sales are following a similar trend, with alcohol consumed in the home reaching 33% of total alcohol sales in 2000 and 39% in 2003.
Cancer Research UK's director of Tobacco Control, Jean King, said: "Going smoke free protects bar workers and customers from the serious health risks associated with second-hand smoke."
The Scottish Executive will implement a comprehensive smoking ban in public places next year. In England a smoking ban that exempts pubs and bars not serving food will be in place by 2009.
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