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Smoke-free bars make business -- and health -- sense. Contrary to the claims of the tobacco industry, eliminating smoking in bars would increase business for these establishments, according to a study jointly sponsored by the American Medical Association and the American Public Health Association. An overwhelming majority of Massachusetts adults -- 89 percent -- said that they would go out to bars just as often or more often than they do now if all bars were smoke-free.

This study, the first of its kind in Massachusetts, refutes claims by the tobacco industry that smoke-free bar laws would cause economic hardship for bar owners. The study was conducted by School of Public Health Assistant Professor Michael Siegel and Lois Biener, of the University of Massachusetts (Boston) and will appear in the December issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

In their survey of 2,356 Massachusetts adults, Siegel and Biener found that ending smoking in all bars would have no impact on the frequency of bar patronage for 69 percent of the respondents. But 20 percent of survey respondents said they would go out to bars more often if all bars became smoke-free. Only 11 percent said they would go out to bars less often.

Contrary to what many people assume, the majority of frequent bar goers in Massachusetts -- 78 percent -- are nonsmokers. The survey uncovered a large, potential new market for bars among nonsmokers. Fifteen percent of Massachusetts adults stated that they had avoided going to bars because of the secondhand smoke. And 10 percent of people who never go to bars said they would start going if smoking were eliminated. This translates into 120,000 new customers for bars and clubs in Massachusetts if secondhand smoke is eliminated in these establishments.

The study adds to the growing evidence that eliminating smoking in bars and restaurants to protect workers from secondhand smoke is not only good for health, but good for business. A study in last month's American Journal of Public Health found that there was no decrease in bar sales in the seven California communities that eliminated smoking in all bars. Throughout the U.S., 32 cities have already passed laws that eliminate smoking in all bars and clubs. Seven of these cities are in Massachusetts. On January 1, 1998, a law that eliminates smoking in all bars in California will go into effect.

Medical Center grant focuses on women's health. Boston University Medical Center was recently awarded a $1.4 million grant to establish a Center of Excellence in Women's Health by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The funding will be used to develop and enhance existing services for women as well as define a research agenda for women's health issues at Boston Medical Center, the School of Medicine, the Boston Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and the Boston HealthNet.

"We're delighted to be one of six institutions in the country selected for this award," says associate professor of medicine Dr. Karen Freund, chief of the Women's Health Group at Boston Medical Center and director of the newly formed Center of Excellence.

The center will incorporate all aspects of women's health care, especially mental health and preventive health services. "We hope to more fully integrate mental health services into the general medical services a woman receives. We have some existing models, such as the Women's Health Group, which we can use as we design the new center," Freund says.

In addition to promoting clinical care, the center will also focus on women's health research and education. "We will develop new working groups, bringing together researchers from various departments with common interests. Such working groups already exist for breast cancer and nutrition, and we plan to create a group for cervical cancer and behavioral health issues," Freund says.

Working closely with researchers and health care professionals at the participating institutions as well as with consumers, the Center of Excellence will also assist women in academic medicine to continue their professional development, enhance women's health components of medical school and residency curricula, and develop a multilanguage Web site for public education.

"Research Briefs" is written by Joan Schwartz in the Office of the Provost. To read more about BU research, visit


15 May 2003
Boston University
Office of University Relations