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Forum News Service, Published March 05 2013

Grand Forks smoking bans had no economic impact, study finds

GRAND FORKS - Restaurant and bar sales in the city were unaffected by two smoking bans approved in the past decade, according to a new economic impact study.

“Neither benefited or were hurt by the legislation,” University of North Dakota economics professor Cullen Goenner, who conducted the study, told the City Council on Monday.

Instead, outside factors such as growth in Grand Forks’ economy and a strengthened Canadian dollar pointed to an increase in overall restaurant and bar sales during the study’s timeframe.

The state banned smoking in restaurants in 2005, and the city banned smoking in bars in 2010.

The neutral results were good news to anti-tobacco activists who had pushed for the bans.

“Even a neutral impact is a positive thing,” said Theresa Knox, a public health nurse and member of the Grand Forks Tobacco Free Coalition.

The study was sponsored by the tobacco coalition, and Knox said it’s a standard procedure for communities wondering about the effects of a new law. In the past, the coalition has conducted surveys of community attitude and perception toward the anti-tobacco laws.

“This (study) has a little more weight to it,” Knox said.