Restaurants happy to take smoking off the menu

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Restaurants happy to take smoking off the menu

Two-thirds of South Africa restaurants are open to banning smokers from their establishments

Cape Town bureau chief

After a blazing row when they were forced to build smoking sections, restaurants are ready to go 100% smoke-free with scarcely a whimper.
Almost two-thirds of restaurants support Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi’s plan to ban smoking under their roofs, according to research by the Economics of Tobacco Control Project at the University of Cape Town.
But Corné van Walbeek and Megan Little, who led the research, warn in the South African Medical Journal that “support could waver in the face of a tobacco industry-led information campaign”.They urge Motsoaledi, who announced the planned smoking ban in 2016, to implement it without delay to “improve the health of hospitality-sector staff and that of the general public, both by reducing exposure to secondhand smoke and by ... further ‘denormalising’ smoking.”
Curbs introduced in 2001, after what Van Walbeek and Little describe as “vehement” opposition from the hospitality and tobacco industries, forced restaurants to set aside up to 25% of their floor area for smokers.
The new research, conducted among 741 restaurants, found there was minimal impact on revenues and patronage, and over the past decade many restaurants had removed or shrunk smoking areas. Almost half of the restaurants in the survey were already smoke-free and only 11% had indoor smoking areas.Nine in 10 restaurant owners or managers said they supported current legislation and 63% backed the idea of a smoking ban.“Given the international legislative trend towards smoke-free restaurants, many restaurateurs have been pre-empting such legislation in South Africa,” say Van Walbeek and Little.
“These restaurants report no significant reduction in either patronage or profits. These findings are in line with other studies in countries that have instituted 100% smoking bans.”
The researchers, whose work was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said support for the proposed ban would probably increase as it was more widely publicised.
Support for the current legislation proved that “mindsets can change and that most people want to dine out in establishments that are not filled with harmful tobacco smoke”, they said.
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