Scott Hays is a research scientist at the Center for Prevention Research and Development, a unit of the Institute of Government and Public Affairs. He is also the president of the C-U Smokefree Alliance, a group that supported passage of clean indoor air ordinances in Champaign and Urbana. He was interviewed by News Bureau Life Sciences Editor Diana Yates.
Please describe the work do you do at the CPRD. What is Prevention Research and Development?
I am a political scientist and I research the adoption of laws and ordinances that deal with the regulation of alcohol and tobacco at the state and local level. For several years now, my work has focused on the adoption of clean indoor laws in municipalities in Illinois and around the country. More generally, CPRD has researchers in other disciplines who specialize in evaluating the effectiveness of youth substance abuse prevention programs and strategies, as well as school reform principles, practices and evaluation.
Some local business owners say the clean indoor air ordinance that recently went into effect has caused them to lose money. What do you say to this?
Two things. First, this type of regulation has been in place in 16 states, several countries and hundreds of cities. Economists have been looking closely at the economic impacts of these ordinances, and they have never, ever, not even once, demonstrated an economic impact. There is simply no evidence for it.
Second, to claim business loss when it's only two months into the ban makes no sense, especially since February was one of the coldest months since 1903. What I've heard from people who have been around the Champaign-Urbana community is that bars and restaurants are busy, and as crowded as ever.
Are there threats to the continuation of the smoking ban in C-U?
Some new City Council members in Champaign are opposed to the smoke-free ordinance. So that's one challenge.
Apart from that I think there are absolutely no threats to the ordinances. One of the things that got me interested in this issue as a research project was visiting cities two, three, four years after these things had been in place. And I was always surprised by how happy people were to be smoke free. After a few years it is taken for granted and becomes an expectation of dining out. The supporters of course love it, but in some of these other places I saw, even the people that fought against it were saying this was really one of the best things that ever happened in the city.
What is happening countywide and statewide on this issue?
Nothing in Champaign County because the county has no jurisdiction over the municipalities within it. Statewide, there's a big push. New state legislation would take the place of municipal ordinances, or at least raise them all up to a floor level. If a municipal ordinance were stronger (than the state ordinance) it would remain in place.