New UCSF website exposes tobacco industry's campaign to "Use and Abuse" the hospitality industry

By Wallace Ravven on August 06, 2002

TobaccoScam, a new website launched by a UCSF tobacco researcher, targets what it calls a 20-year, multi-million dollar effort by the tobacco industry to manipulate the restaurant industry as a political front to defeat local and state smoke-free measures and to protect tobacco sales worldwide.

As a direct result of the tobacco industry efforts, today’s restaurant and other hospitality employees are exposed to more dangerous concentrations of secondhand smoke than any other group, while the dining public runs health risks ranging from asthma to more lethal heart attacks, according to information on the new TobaccoScam website.

The new site was established by tobacco control researcher Stanton Glantz, PhD, professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). It is hosted by the UCSF Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Based on once-secret tobacco industry documents and recently published medical and economic research, the TobaccoScam site ( www.TobaccoScam.ucsf.edu ) reveals that the tobacco industry, in an attempt to block smoke-free measures nationwide, has repeatedly made groundless claims about the economic impact of smoke-free measures and has disputed the health dangers of secondhand smoke exposure.

Polls conducted throughout the United States (and summarized at http://www.tobaccoscam.ucsf.edu/simply/simply_wpw.cfm ) show that a strong majority of diners want all restaurants to be smoke-free, according to Glantz, but restaurant associations lobby state legislatures and city councils to block smoke-free measures that often apply to other workplaces and public areas. Some of the associations are “front groups invented and funded by Big Tobacco’s PR firms,” according to Glantz. Misled that smoke-free measures will harm business, restaurant owners are left with unhealthy conditions, growing legal liability, and higher maintenance and labor costs, the website shows.

On the website, restaurant owners speak out about the benefits of a smoke-free eating place and the tobacco industry tactics to discourage them. The owner’s of Pierre’s in Morristown, New Jersey, say “We’ve been consistently busier since we went smoke-free ten years ago. And we’d never go back.”

Michael O’Neal of O’Neal’s Lincoln Center restaurant says, “Big Tobacco has been conning the restaurant business for years Don’t be a sucker. Go smoke-free.”
Glantz says, “It’s time restaurant owners start hearing the truth about what the science says and learn exactly how Big Tobacco uses and abuses them. Restaurant people are very sharp, but they’ve been treated to the Big Lie that smoke-free measures will cost them business. The truth is, every reliable economic study finds going smoke-free has no effect on restaurant business—and it protects the public health.”

The TobaccoScam website quotes tobacco industry documents describing the tobacco industry’s strategies to manipulate U.S. and foreign restaurant industry and hospitality associations. It also warns against the tobacco industry’s attempts to promote expensive new ventilation systems and restaurant remodels to accommodate smokers, a “political strategy” that costs restaurant owners much more than simply going smoke-free. TobaccoScam offers access to authoritative health and economic studies, many available in their entirety for the first time online, and lists front groups and ventilation consultants connected with the tobacco industry.

“Why should hospitality workers and patrons be exposed to dangerous levels of secondhand smoke they’re protected from elsewhere,” asks Glantz, co-author of The Cigarette Papers and Tobacco War. “This ranks with the most cynical maneuvers Big Tobacco has ever pulled, like swearing to Congress that nicotine is not addictive.”

Glantz plans to publicize the TobaccoScam website with full-page advertisements running in major restaurant industry trade magazines starting mid-August. The ads will feature restaurateurs from across the country endorsing the smoke-free.

The website and ad campaign are supported by grants from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund.