News releases

September 10, 2001

Tobacco Company Study:
Smoking Regulations Don’t Hurt Businesses.

(Ottawa) - Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada have discovered a formerly secret tobacco company document that shows that smokers don't stop frequenting establishments because of smoke-free environments. "The tobacco companies know that smoke-free bylaws work," said Michael Chaiton, researcher at Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada, "the businesses that are really hurt by smoking bans are tobacco companies."

The document was a major focus group study conducted by Decima Research in June 1988 for Imperial Tobacco to test perceptions of second-hand smoke. The tobacco company research showed that most smokers would not consider patronizing different businesses because of smoking regulations. 

  • "Interestingly, when faced with having to compromise in the workplace or in public areas, no participants ever consider switching jobs or patronizing a more receptive restaurateur as alternative actions."

The testing also demonstrated that although most smokers expressed dissatisfaction when smoking regulations were imposed, they understood and accepted that the measures would benefit the health of Canadians.

  •  “Even though many smokers believe these measures have been imposed too quickly and too harshly, a wide majority seem to accept these measures as a “fait accompli.” Smokers and non-smokers alike believe that Canadian’s health in general will benefit from these measures.”

In fact, smokers appeared to appreciate smoke-free spaces as much as non-smokers do.

  • “Smokers generally perceive non-smokers’ rationales as credible and more or less legitimate, because many of the inconveniences or negative aspects of smoking also bother smokers.”

While non-smokers generally accepted that smokers had a “right” to smoke, the Imperial Tobacco/Decima report showed that the right to breathe fresh air was much more important.  The focus group participants felt that people were entitled to a smoke-free environment. 

  •  “As one former smoker remarks, ‘A few years ago, I wouldn’t have felt confident enough to ask someone to stop blowing their smoke in my way.  Today, I feel I’m part of a group, and I’m entitled to have a smoke-free environment.”

Although the research was conducted in 1988, experiences of the implementation of smoke-free regulations in Canada and the United States suggest that the report is still relevant.

“The pattern is the same whenever new regulations on smoking are imposed,” said Mr. Chaiton. “At first, smokers grumble about the regulations being imposed too quickly and too harshly, but at the end of the day, smokers enjoy smoke-free places as much as non-smokers.”

The 181-page study is available online at http://www.tobaccodocuments.org/view.cfm?CitID=5772634&GetListArrayIdx

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 for information:               Michael Chaiton
                                    Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada
                                    613 - 233 4878 (office)