Smoking bans stoke global warming?

April 28, 2008

N. Virani stands in his outdoor bar and restaurant in central Oslo — his heating bills have jumped  by $100,000 a year after Norway banned smoking indoorsFewer cigarettes get lit indoors in bars and restaurants because of smoking bans from California to Ireland but something else is going up in smoke from a sidewalk in central Oslo — about $100,000 a year in extra outdoor heating bills.

The heated pavement, installed at a cost of about $400,000, may be the most extreme example of an environmental side-effect of smoking bans: rocketing power use.

“It’s warm out here even when it’s snowing and minus 10 (14 Fahrenheit) on the worst winter day,” said N. Virani, managing director of the Mona Lisa restaurant, which includes an outdoor section named after former health Minister Dagfinn Hoybraten who introduced the smoking ban in 2004.

Virani said he believed it was the only heated sidewalk in Scandinavia. And it’s true — today at a chilly 10 Celsius (50F) outdoors it felt like sitting at a warm outdoor cafe by the Mediterranean.

The strip of heated paving outdoors, and heaters in the roof, represent about 180,000 watts of electricity. Total electricity bills for the large business have almost doubled to 1.2 million crowns ($240,000) a year, Virani said.

The Mona Lisa and Hoybraten outdoor restaurant and bar in central Oslo The restaurant had to close down an indoor “cigar and cognac bar” with turnover plunging after the law entered into force. “Overall, turnover has recovered,” Virani said, even accounting for the extra bills.

In Norway almost all electricity comes from hydropower so the extra use is not doing much to stoke global warming, largely blamed on use of fossil fuels.

But think of all the thousands of extra gas and electricity heaters outdoors spurred by the smoking bans around the world…

I’m a big fan of the smoking bans overall as a way of protecting workers’ health and helping some people to kick the habit. But what can people like Mr. Virani do about the side-effect of soaring power use that in many countries is strengthening what U.S. President George W. Bush once called an “addiction to oil”?


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The law of unintended consequences rears its ugly head yet again.

Smoking was recently banned in restaurants where I live; however, there was a loophole in the law: 21 & older venues were exempt; thus, social night clubs that didn’t have much of a menu were unaffected.

But after a few months, restaurants that also relied heavily on happy hour drinkers & smokers were forced to change to 21 & older venues because they were losing so much money to these night clubs. Waitresses & waiters under the age of 21 at these restaurants were subsequently laid off as a result.

And if all of this weren’t ironic enough, this new law went into affect just as the state raised cigarette taxes $.40/pack to fund education. Guess the legislators failed to notice that the 3 most populous regions in the state were on borders with states that had lower cigarette prices.

Would it surprise you to hear that new revenues aren’t even bringing in 50% of what was projected?

In a rush to ban smoking, our fearless leaders ride a wave of public sentiment without properly assessing possible scenarios that might develop as a result of new legislation.

Personally, I’m a global warming skeptic, so part of the subject here means nothing to me. But for those who do believe in it, there’s a lesson to be learned here: since virtually everything imaginable has been tied to global warming in some manner — I even read last week that tree-munching beetles in Canada are causing global warming now — everything will ultimately be blamed for causing it. The end result of this (baseless) hysteria will be nothing more than finger-pointing, endless arguments, and reactive legislation with even more unintended consequences.

It’s like a circular reference in a spreadsheet.

Posted by AEGeneral | Report as abusive

I live in a town in northern sweden, some of the pavements here are heated, not to comfort smokers, but to keep ice and snow off the ground. Even the bus stops have heated outdoor seats. There is a lot of energy used here, just for giving a small comfort to ppl, I do not see anything wring in this.

The angle of this article, to make smokers the scapegoat of another problem in society, seems mainly like a over strained exaggeration of matters.

Posted by nocedal | Report as abusive

It is amazing how much we will sacrifice to the Great God Tobacco. One death in five in the US is tobacco caused, and they take about 50,000 nonsmokers with them. Their smoking materials are the Number One cause of fatal fires. How many more burnt offerings does it take?

Under unintended consequences: did the French know when they banned smoking that the heart attack rate would go down 15%?

Heated sidewalks for safety to reduce slipping on ice, that’s smart. Providing comfort for smoking, so they will continue their disease progression and then you help pay for their medical bills, that’s stupid.

You don’t have to believe global warming or that tobacco kills. Nature will do what it wants. But if we put off doing anything, it may be more damaging and costly later. Tobacco contributes to global carbon dioxide levels because millions of trees are cut down to clear land for planting tobacco, and for fuel to cure it.

Then do they throw their cigaret butts on the heated sidewalks?

Posted by D. Gordon Draves | Report as abusive

I live in Canada. Anyone who knows anything about the weather will realize that it’s quite cold here, especially in the winter. We’ve had a smoking ban where I live since 2000. I have never seen an outdoor heater for smokers, even on the coldest day. Do people in other countries not bring their winter coats when they go outside for a few minutes for a cigarette?!

Posted by Pete | Report as abusive

So it goes when government becomes the Mommy state.

Posted by S. Edward Smith | Report as abusive

For all of these people who quote frankly mad numbers about passive smoking fatalities (50,000 sounds like a very round number to me) please could they actually name a few of them? That were conclusively caused by passive smoking? And aren’t derived from a statistical study, so they are actually real people?

Here in the UK, it isn’t really cold that’s the problem, it’s the rain and the wind so a winter coat isn’t really required (just a waterproof one).

I beleive that this was raised as a concern before the English smoking ban, but was ignored. Just as the potential damage to the hospitality industry was ignored, so while in 2005 there was an average of 2 pubs per week closing nationwide and in 2006 there were 4 pubs per week closing, the rate for 2007 has averaged 27 closures per week.
That’s 27 businesses that were profitable and paying taxes gone under each week, but it’s all right, the UK government is going to review the effects of the ban after three years to see if it has had any adverse effects. Assuming that we still have a hospitality industry left by then.

Posted by RufusT | Report as abusive

And how many does alcohol kill, directly and passively?

Lets take this argument to its logical conclusion.
If the heating of pavements, smoking areas, bars, restaurants (in fact, anywhere cause global warming) then who has the moral authority to decide what we allow/prohibit. For example, a devout Muslim would argue that bars selling alcohol are unnecessary and against the public good and contribute to climate change.

Rich societies are decadent – is that car/plane journey necessary?

Cherry picking is a favorite pastime of bigots, hypocrites and fools. Unfortunately, the world is full of them…..

Posted by DBWB | Report as abusive

Surely D Gordon means “The Great God Pharma” as the pharmaceutical industry is what is driving the pressure groups who advocate the curbing of civil liberties in the name of public health. Big Tobacco is a minnow compared to big Pharm these days.
Nowhere ever has there been a noticeable drop in heart attack rates associated with smoking bans. There are plenty of stories, but these are all quickly debunked (though that receives much less press).
D Gordon claims 50,000 American non-smokers fall prey to SHS each year. The EU, with close to twice the population states less than half this number within European countries. in fact, the death toll vaires depending on who is publishing the figures, which only serves to highlight that no one actually knows.
Relegating people to the sidewalk, especially in a cold climate will achieve only one thing; decimate the hospitality industry.
I leave with one final thought; if smoking bans really do save lives (as is claimed) then why is the anti-smoking movement unable to demonstrate this in somewhere like California (they’ve had the ban for 10 years now – long enough to demonstrate any trends)?

Posted by RTS | Report as abusive

D Gordon Draves would be the type who in the medieval times would of denounced Galileo for suggesting the earth is round and in Orson Welles’ 1938 production of HG Wells’ War Of The Worlds would of believed that martians really have landed in New Jersey. If one in five people die of smoking that suggests everyone who smokes dies of smoking. I know it must be difficult to put this across but non smokers die too. Taking your ill informed logic 80% of non smokers die too. So you are 4x likely to die from not smoking? The anti smoking lobby have been spinning, porky pies for the last 2 years on heart attacks, it is completely untrue. They quoted the figure in Scotland at 17% and infact the real figure when the smoking ban came in was 4%. The previous year when smoking was allowed the figure for heart attack reduction was 11%. So you can equally argue that smoking bans increase heart attacks by 300%. Calculators at the ready and brains engaged please.

Posted by DaveA | Report as abusive

It’s amazing how naive and stupid people are. The smoking issue is one of those issues that prove my assertion. If smoking kills 50,000 non-smokers a year How many smokers does it kill? The amount should be much higher because of the fact that smokers are more affected by their actions.

Since the number of smokers is not higher then there must be another cause for those 50,000’s deaths. And, here’s the real reason thos people are dying: pollution.

The oil companies, being some of the richest companies in the world found a great scapegoat a few years back in the tobacco companies. It yeally bothers me when I watch on TV stupid young people being pawns of those oil companies. The Truth and other organizations fighting to stop smoking will find that after everyone stops smoking people are still going to die for the same reasons. Obviously, because the culprit is not tobacco, but fossil fuels.

It’s time to wake up, people. We need to face up to the challenge and call out those corporations that are really killing us. I predict that at some point in the future those oil companies executives will be tried for crimes against humanity. Hopefully, that future isn’t too far from now.

Posted by Platypus | Report as abusive

An interesting challenge. My heart goes out to smokers who wish to enjoy their favorite restaurants and wish to light up. However, wasting energy, no matter the specific cause, makes no sense economically or environmentally!

Posted by Corbett Kroehler | Report as abusive

Corbett Kroehler: Being a pedant you have spelt favourite incorrectly. Secondly a cursory glance at your website suggests you are American. I understand that America imports 40% of the world’s oil and therefore must burn 40% of the world’s oil. In balance you produce 22% of the world’s GDP. You have vast deserts which could be turned into solar panel farms, many cities eg LA have no train or public transport systems as everyone drives by car. So putting your own house in order would be a start. Pardon my scepticism.

Posted by DaveA | Report as abusive

What kind of article is this other than a cheap way to spread false information on global warming. I guess I should expect this from a Rothschild holding (promoters of a global carbon tax). What rubbish! Take a look outside and tell me what you see. That’s right it’s not warming but rather cooling. In fact the poles are growing again and their were no SUV’s on Martian moons were poles were melting in a most natural cycle that preceeds an ice age. Soon their fake global warming crap will be to obvious of a lie. Unless of course you’d rather pay for your own breath and flatulence.

Posted by Marshall | Report as abusive

They’ll come a time when Big Pharma and the anti-smoking brigade will be exposed for what they are, manipulating liars, and I hope when that that comes, which it surely will, someone sues them. But until that time comes the zealots will carry on calling for ever more restrictions, but this will be done piecemeal, they can’t have their funding/pay drying up, when the only restriction left is to call for tobacco to made illegal then they’ll call a halt, no goverment in their right mind will lose the lucrative revenue raised from tobacco. But watch out once they’ve finished with smokers they’ll be going after another section of society. They’re parasites.

As to Climate Change/Global Warming, just more propaganda and a money making exercise. Like the Smoking Ban Experiment, the main instigator of this, Al Gore, will also be exposed for the charlatan he is.

Someone posted that trees were cut down for tobacco growing, haha, how ill-informed, I take it you know nothing about them cutting them down to save the planet then, which is exactly what they’re doing, to grow palm oil for Biofuel, supposedly to lessen our carbon footprint, and so many companies have now sprung up that buy your carbon footprint, haha. Can someone please explain what a carbon footprint is? Oh how many have noticed that since we’re not all being burnt to a crisp by GW they’re quietly dropping GW in favour of climate change. Shysters the lot of them.

Passive Smoke & Global Warming/Climate Change will go down in history as the two biggest money making scams of all time.

Truth, and the beauty of it, is that you can’t erase it, it will always emerge.

Posted by sarah | Report as abusive

One wonders how good the fare is at the Mona Lisa Restaurant when management feels the need to pander to patrons’ drug habits in order hold them.

Posted by Margaret Hogge | Report as abusive

Sarah writes – Passive Smoke & Global Warming/Climate Change will go down in history as the two biggest money making scams of all time.

Succinct and true. The perpetrators of these scams rely on the naivety and fanaticism of the ‘Useful Stupid’ to line their pockets. Unfortunately, these fools vastly outnumber those of us who have not succumbed to the relentless brain washing……..

Posted by David B (UK) | Report as abusive

Margaret Hogge: I would suggest the Mona Lisa Restaurant “panders” to the wishes of their customers. If there was not a demand for smoking in bars and restaurants they would close them down and go completely non smoking. With regards to drugs, is not alcohol a drug, caffine too? Do you drink Margaret or just have a soft drink? I can only assume you are a hypocrite. How many people have smoked 8 cigarettes and felt the need to go and hit someone, unlike beer, whereby drinking 8 pints/pots just might do the trick? Also is it not the definition fascism imposing by law and deed your value system on others? “Pandering” to smokers, must democrats would agree, is far preferable to a pencil moustache, swastika and a desire to invade Poland. Hitler was the first man to ban smoking in public places in 1942.

Posted by DaveA | Report as abusive

DavidA, being an American pendant, I noticed that you have spelled caffeine incorrectly.

Posted by Cassie B | Report as abusive

Pehaps we have gone past the point where facts matter. 80.asp

Take away the hysteria, and the smoking ban, is just another manifistation of the nanny state.True there are people who are repulsed by cigarette smoke, so the decisions should be left to the individual establishments and members.

Trouble is that would have to have local decisions, and our decisions are now made many miles away from the places they are enacted.

Posted by Peter Barnes | Report as abusive

CassieB: Thank you for your correction you were quite right to point it out, thanks.

Posted by DaveA | Report as abusive

[…] that in colder climates, smokers are provided with a heat source for their smoking area which is often electric heat? In some places, like Scandinavia, some restaurant owners even go as far as to internally heat the […]

Posted by Greener.Ideal » Smoking Bans Worsening Energy Consumption? | Report as abusive

Putting the smokers outside also means more people dropping cig butts on the ground. Even if ashtrays are available, smokers tend to just toss the butts, often still burning, on the ground. Someone should do an environmental study on the effect of all the butts…especially the ones tossed by the tree-huggers.

Posted by EileenB | Report as abusive

Eileen wrote: Putting the smokers outside also means more people dropping cig butts on the ground. Even if ashtrays are available, smokers tend to just toss the butts, often still burning, on the ground. Someone should do an environmental study on the effect of all the butts…especially the ones tossed by the tree-huggers.

Perhaps they could also do a study on discarded gum and fast food packaging. Seems to a lot of those (and they’re not prohibited indoors).

Posted by dbwb | Report as abusive

The smoking ban is the right decision, smoking is very harmful. Not only that people who smoke, harms not only himself. Passive smoking, when a pair of cigarette smoke inhaled by smokers not even be a very harmful. I think that is very correct and vzveshannoe decision. Especially in bars and and restaurants. Because of the habits of one affects many.

Posted by StopSmokerMen | Report as abusive

[…] that in colder climates, smokers are provided with a heat source for their smoking area which is often electric heat? In some places, like Scandinavia, some restaurant owners even go as far as to internally heat the […]

Posted by Smoking Bans Worsening Energy Consumption? | | Greener IdealGreener Ideal | Report as abusive