US smoking ban claim rejected

CLAIMS that the smoking ban in New York has had a positive effect on the bar and restaurant trade in the city have been labelled a “complete distortion of the facts” by representatives of the hospitality industry.

United Restaurant and Tavern Owners of New York executive director Brian Nolan said rather than helping business, the ban has led to a downturn in custom and he predicted a similarly gloomy fate for Irish publicans when the ban comes in here.

"The reality is that the smoking ban is hurting New York publicans badly, and it will have the same, if not worse effect on Irish pubs," he said.

Mr Nolan was responding to a statement from the New York City Commissioner for Finance, which cited a rise of 12% in tax receipts from bars and restaurants since the ban was introduced last March.

Figures from the city's Department of Finance revealed $12 million tax had been received from food and drink outlets from April through September 2003, compared with $10.8m in 2002.

However, Mr Nolan said the figures represented a "distortion of reality", due to the fact that corporate profit taxes and not sales taxes were used to come to such favourable figures.

He claimed any increase in tax receipts could only be attributed to a number of factors in the US economy since September 11, saying that businesses had tended to cut back and run more efficiently since then.

"The truth is that almost all bars in New York, both in the city and around the state, have experienced a radical downturn in bar business, directly attributable to the smoking ban.

"In reality, the majority of US jurisdictions where the ban has been introduced are now examining ways of implementing a full or partial exemption due to the significant downturn in pub business," he said.

Mr Nolan criticised the Department of Health here for following the New York lead.

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