Michigan’s smoking ban went into effect on May 1, 2010. Since that time bar and restaurant owners have reported a decrease in business. For example, at the Blarney Stone Pub in Berkley, the manager says alcohol sales have plummeted after May 1. Some bar owners have said their alcohol sales have decreased by as much as 50%.
The Detroit Free Press quotes one bar owner as saying:
“My smokers who still come in have one or two (drinks) and then go outside for a smoke,” Burton said. “Food sales are about the same, but alcohol sales have tanked.”
Statistics suggest that drunk driving arrests are also down in Michigan for 2010. The unanswered question is why?
According to the Detroit News “[T]here are many theories to explain the drop, including:
• Michigan has lost 2,168 law enforcement positions since 2001, creating gaps in enforcement that enable people to drink and drive without getting caught.
• The success of Mothers Against Drunk Driving and a series of tougher laws have made people aware that drunken driving is a serious crime with serious consequences.
• People are drinking at home, avoiding bars for the pleasure — and reduced cost — of the couch.
To this we can now add a fourth category: Michigan’s smoking ban!
While there are certainly benefits to a law that decreases drunk driving, this law has decreased revenue to the state in at least four ways. First, a decline in liquor sales leads to a proportionate decline in tax revenue.
Second, WNDU reports that some businesses have been forced to lay off existing or not hire new employees, which also decreases the taxes paid by businesses on their salaries.
Third, according to the Freep, Andi Brancato said “the Michigan Lottery also is hurting from the loss of revenues from Keno and other games that are played in bars, spokeswoman . Revenues are expected to be down about $35 million this fiscal year over last year.”
Fourth, a decline in drunk driving arrests leads to a secondary decline in state revenue in the form of fines and costs.
As Republicans and Democrats in the State Congress debate what to do about the staggering budget deficits yet again, perhaps they ought to consider repealing this costly law.