Why Understanding Smoking Bans is Important for Estimating Their Effects: California's Restaurant Smoking Bans and Restaurant Sales
43 Pages Posted: 13 Sep 2006
Date Written: September 5, 2006
A large literature has sought to determine whether smoking bans help or hinder restaurants. Much of the literature improperly specifies its econometric equations, and thus mistakenly infers causality. Examining the relationship between restaurant smoking bans and restaurant revenues in 267 California communities, we reach two main conclusions. First, California's municipal restaurant smoking bans are endogenous in critical way - restaurant sales growth (or something correlated with restaurant sales growth) appears to cause restaurant bans, not vice versa. Consequently, failure to control properly for trends can produce spurious evidence of causation. Second, ban heterogeneity (e.g., state vs. local) can be exploited to sort out - or rule out - causal effects. In other words, pooling data and treating smoking bans implemented at different levels as homogenous (as many studies do) ignores an important source of information, and is likely to lead to erroneous conclusions. Our analysis holds lessons for the many studies that have examined the arguably more important question of how smoking bans affect smoking rates.
Keywords: smoking ban, smoking, restaurant, cigarette, differences in differences
JEL Classification: B40, C10, D21, D78, K20, K32
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation