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Excerpts from: Puff rebuff: The scene in Corvallis offers idea of how Eugene smoking ban would work
By JEFF WRIGHT, The Register-Guard [09/24/00]
Open the door to the Peacock Tavern in
Patrons fill about half the stools at the long bar to your left and a
handful of guys are leaning on cue sticks around the pool tables to
your right. Mounted TVs show football highlights and Keno numbers.
The stage and dance floor are empty - but not for long. A woman
tries her luck at one of the video poker machines along the front wall.
So what's missing? You already
know the answer if you've been
paying attention to the cultural
debate playing out in Corvallis
and a half-dozen other
communities around the state,
The bar has no ashtrays. No
cigarettes. No smoke.
A similar scene could come to
pass in Eugene: On Monday,
the City Council is expected to
approve a controversial
package of ordinances that
would restrict cigarette access
to young people and ban
smoking in workplaces and enclosed public areas, including bars,
taverns and bingo halls.
As a public hearing two weeks ago made clear, emotions run deep
on an issue that pits the perils of secondhand smoke against smokers'
freedom of choice. As the council leans toward approving the ban in
some form, all kinds of predictions are flying about how it will change
the Eugene landscape for better or ill.
Some clues are available in Corvallis, which has lived with its smoking
ban since July 1998. The Corvallis ordinance is the primary model for
Eugene's proposed ban.
By most accounts, Corvallis has imposed its smoking ban with no
exodus of smokers to out-of-town bars, no tavern closings and only
two people cited for violations. More than two years after the
Corvallis council approved the ban - and voters later affirmed it - it's
an accepted, even forgotten, part of the city's fabric.
"It's a done deal, we're over it," says Corvallis police Lt. Michael
Russell, whose duties include helping enforce the ban. "It is, in fact, a
way of life here."
Many patrons at the Peacock and other Corvallis watering holes
agree - even as they continue to grumble about a ban they consider
unjust and stupid.
Peacock owner John Carter says he wouldn't have bought the
business earlier this year if he didn't think he could turn a profit with a
The ban seems to fit Corvallis, a
city where many residents
regard smokers "as something
of a pariah," says Mary Nolan,
public affairs director for the
Corvallis Chamber of
Dresser last year conducted a survey on Corvallis' smoking ban for
the state Health Division. He reviewed state liquor, beer and video
poker sales in Corvallis and neighboring communities, and
interviewed restaurant and bar owners and customers.
His conclusion: The ban has had little or no economic impact. Alcohol
sales did go down, he says, but they also went down in neighboring
Albany, which has no smoking ban, so the drop in Corvallis can't be
attributed to the ban.
Dresser also found that, for most businesses, any drop in smoking
customers was offset by an increase in nonsmoking customers.
"About 75 percent of the population doesn't smoke, but 70 percent
does drink alcohol, so you've got this huge potential customer base,"
But other predictions about the ban didn't materialize. Some critics,
for example, said the ban would cause far more arrests for fights and
disturbances outside the city's bars as more patrons went outside for
their smoking breaks.
That hasn't happened. The number of calls for police assistance on
the block where the Peacock and two other bars are located nearly
doubled - from four to seven - in the ban's first year. But most all
those calls were related to arguments that began inside the bars and
spilled outside, not by smokers already outside, Lt. Russell says.
One unexpected result of the ban has been an increase in the number
of businesses with sidewalk or other outdoor seating - where
smoking is allowed. Greg Little, owner of Squirrel's, added outdoor
seating to his landmark downtown bar - a favorite hangout of
graduate students - earlier this year.
But others say the smoking ban has cleared the air in Corvallis,
figuratively and literally, and that Eugene has nothing to fear.
Little, the owner of Squirrel's, was a strong critic of the ban early on
and says he still objects to the idea of government telling him how to
run his business. But he says he's come around to the view that the
ban is probably good for the city - and good for his business.
CORVALLIS SMOKING BAN FINDINGS
Study conducted April-September 1999 for Oregon Health Division
Ban had little or no economic impact on most businesses. Liquor and
beer sales dropped, but not because of the smoking ban. (Sales also
dropped in nearby Albany, which has no smoking ban.)
Some Corvallis smokers moved to bars in nearby communities such
as Philomath and Tangent, but didn't travel to Albany.
Corvallis bars with video poker saw a drop in video poker sales as a
result of the smoking ban.
Most smokers remained loyal to their favorite bars and were willing
to smoke outside. One-fourth of Corvallis smokers prefer
For most businesses, loss of smoking customers was offset by gain in
- Jack Dresser/Pacific Research Institute, Eugene
BY THE NUMBERS
21 percent of Lane County residents say they're cigarette smokers
67 percent say smoking shouldn't be allowed in any indoor work
70 percent say smoking shouldn't be allowed in restaurants
86 percent say people should be protected from secondhand smoke
91 percent say secondhand smoke is harmful to a person's health
- Oregon Health Division, 1999 data
SMOKING BANS IN OREGON
At least five communities in Oregon already ban smoking in public
Corvallis: Ban includes bars. Effective July 1, 1998. Affirmed by
voters, 57 percent majority, in November 1998. Lawsuit filed by
Oregon Restaurant Association rejected by Oregon Court of
Benton County: Approved in 1998. Exempts free-standing bars.
Multnomah County: Effective July 1, 2000. Exempts bars, bingo
halls, truck stops.
Baker City: Approved by voters, 55 percent majority, in February.
Exempts bars. Initiative to appeal ban will appear on November
Central Point: Approved by City Council in January. Upheld by
voters, 63 percent majority, last Tuesday. Exempts bars.
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