Bar and restaurant owners predict steep revenue declines if South Dakota prohibits smoking in those businesses, but most studies of previous bans suggest those fears are unfounded - particularly for those that serve food.
Opponents of legislation that would expand the South Dakota smoking ban to bars and restaurant largely have set aside the health argument, but the threatened loss of revenue for the state and individual businesses remains their trump card in a bad economy.
Lobbyist Larry Mann has predicted a 30 percent drop in video lottery revenue, a significant hit to a state that takes half. Mike Trucano, a Deadwood video lottery machine vendor, said smoking bans in other states have swallowed 10 percent to 25 percent of business revenue. Advertisement
Supporters of the ban thus far have emphasized the health effects of secondhand smoke to sway lawmakers. But as the House bill moves to the floor as early as Monday, one health advocate is turning his focus to the economic effect.
Darrin Smith, senior director of advocacy for the American Heart Association in Sioux Falls, is preparing a handout for lawmakers that rebuts claims that liquor sales and gambling revenues fall when states ban smoking.
People opposing the ban have manipulated figures from other states when testifying before legislative committees, he said. Minnesota liquor tax revenues kept going up after that state’s October 2007 smoking ban, and Oregon video lottery officials say their revenue decline largely is a result of the bad economy.
“Legislators, the media and the public deserve honest and accurate, factual evidence,” Smith said.