Smoking bans stoke global warming?
Fewer 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 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”?