Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Stay home and drink? 

Apparently, not too many do.

Scott Adams and Chad Cotti, "Drunk driving after the passage of smoking bans in bars." J. Public Economics 92 (5-6), June 2008, page 1288-1305.
Using geographic variation in local and state smoke-free bar laws in the US, we observe an increase in fatal accidents involving alcohol following bans on smoking in bars that is not observed in places without bans. Although an increased accident risk might seem surprising at first, two strands of literature on consumer behavior suggest potential explanations � smokers driving longer distances to a bordering jurisdiction that allows smoking in bars and smokers driving longer distances within their jurisdiction to bars that still allow smoking, perhaps through non-compliance or outdoor seating. We find evidence consistent with both explanations. The increased miles driven by drivers wishing to smoke and drink offsets any reduction in driving from smokers choosing to stay home following a ban, resulting in increased alcohol-related accidents. This result proves durable, as we subject it to an extensive battery of robustness checks.
Here's a report from ScienceDirect, and an earlier draft of the paper. Hennepin County 2005 is in this sample, which covers 2000-2005 for 117 counties that had bans in at least one full year. Add this to the evidence already existing on the economic impact of smoking bans, and the case against them grows.

Thanks to my colleague Phil Grossman for the link.

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