Smoking Bans in the Restaurant Industry

publication date: Aug 30, 2023

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Cigarette smoking is a leading cause of health conditions and death in the United States, and secondhand smoke is just as deadly. More than 40,00 people in the country lose their lives yearly to complications from secondhand smoke. As such, many states have taken action and have cracked down on smoking in public locations, including restaurants. In total, 28 US states have comprehensive bans on smoking in bars, restaurants, and workplaces as of early 2023. While smoking bans in dining spots are beneficial for maintaining public health and the cleanliness of public spaces, their impact hasn't always garnered positive reactions. Here's how smoking bans in the restaurant industry have made their mark:

Changing Consumer Behaviors

With tighter restrictions on smoking in restaurants, smokers are now much more limited in terms of smoking areas and permitted products. Smoking rates have dropped significantly as a result, and fewer people are using cigarettes than ever. Many people seek to quit smoking, so smokers looking for a nicotine fix turn to nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products instead. Smokeless NRT products such as nicotine patches, gum, lozenges, inhalers, and pouches are experiencing growth in light of smoking products falling out of favor, which are much more acceptable to use in public spaces.

While NRT has been around for years, newer products like nicotine pouches are gaining popularity. Oral On! pouches are a top brand in the country because they're smoke and tobacco-free, and their ultra-compact mini-dry format promotes discreetness and prevents drip. The wide array of flavors and levels also suits every smoker. Nicotine gum has also been a top NRT product since the '90s when it was first approved, with newer brands still entering the market. Gum and lozenge brand Blip only recently launched in the US, aiming to help younger adults quit smoking and vaping. If restaurants continue enforcing stricter bans, the use and demand for these alternatives may grow.

Hygiene and Cleanliness

Cigarettes are not only frowned upon due to the health impacts they bring, but many are opposed to them due to the smoke and smells they emit. This is a typical concern that restaurants must address, as the article "Food Handling and COVID-19" highlights how vital hygiene and health are for food and drink establishments. Improper adherence to guidelines regarding smoking and other health and hygiene measures can put businesses in a bad light.

Though many restaurants typically limit smoking to outdoor areas, that doesn't eliminate the issue of improper hygiene. Thirdhand smoke, the chemical residue from tobacco, can still linger on surfaces like tables and chairs for years. As the Thirdhand Smoke Resource Center underscores, thirdhand smoke can affect the body by touching surfaces and entering the mouth through ingestion or contact with contaminated objects. Smoking bans can help reduce these issues in restaurants to prevent health concerns, but proper hygiene is needed for better cleanliness.

Less Smoke-friendly Spaces

Smoking bans are becoming much stricter as of late, and more and more cities are tightening smoke-free regulations in restaurants. For instance, over 100 California cities have enacted Smokefree Outdoor Dining and Bar Patio laws, and the demand for more to follow is still high. While non-smokers are enthusiastic about these changes due to the elimination of secondhand smoke, some people are worried that these bans have gone too far.

With restaurants becoming smoke-free, smokers lose the space to socialize and gather. Some believe that while smoking should not be widespread, the law should accommodate businesses catering specifically to smokers and want to create a social space for those people. Some are also concerned about the effects of withdrawals, which can be challenging for smokers to manage now that smoking areas are becoming less available. While this may encourage smokers to quit, some may view these smoking bans in restaurants as unproductive and unempathetic to addressing smoking and its root cause.

Smoking bans in the restaurant industry have become more widespread, and the trend may continue to rise as smoking becomes less embraced by the public. While tighter restrictions benefit health and perhaps business, many believe they won't be the end-all for smoking cessation.

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