Cigarette ban may have cleared out more than smoke

May 30, 2012

Five years ago this month the Smoke Free Arizona act went into effect. A Valley bar owner and a health services expert talk about how the act changed the Arizona bar scene.

Mark DeSimone, owner of the Hidden House Cocktail Lounge in Phoenix, says the Smoke Free Arizona act did more to hurt business and drive away customers in his bar than the recession or crackdown on DUI laws. DeSimone estimates that his revenue dropped about 25-30 percent after the act went into effect. He says revenues finally bottomed out about a year ago, but with no patio and a bar exempt from the act down the street, there’s not much he can do except continue struggling along. DeSimone believes that the act infringes upon personal freedoms and says in the past customers could choose to drink at his bar or choose to drink at a non-smoking bar, but now he’s lost regular customers who happen to be smoking, and can’t bring in enough new customers to replace them.

Wayne Tormala is the Bureau of Tobacco and Chronic Disease chief at the Arizona Department of Health Services. He says the act had a tremendous effect, and according to the Center of Disease Control 230,000 Arizonans quit tobacco use in the past five years. Tormala says a public opinion poll shows 73 percent of business owners are in favor of the Smoke Free Arizona law, and he believes the majority have seen business go up as a result. He acknowledges an initial dip but says the numbers gradually go up.

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