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Marriott Goes Smoke-Free:

The Marriott hotel chain will no longer allow smoking in any of its guest rooms, according to this report. Interestingly, the decision appears to have been motivated by Marriott's concern for the bottom line.

Two decades ago, about half the company's rooms were set aside for smokers, but demand has steadily dropped, with only 5 percent of customers now requesting smoking rooms. At the same time, complaints about cigarette odor have increased, and company officials have struggled to address the issue.

Marriott, which will enforce its ban by charging violators $200 to $300, follows that of the Westin Hotels & Resorts chain, which late last year announced it was making all 77 of its properties smoke-free. Since then, business has grown stronger, said Sue Brush, a senior vice president with Westin, which is owned by Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide Inc.

An interesting question is how this decision will affect activist campaigns to impose local smoking bans in various parts of the country. Smoking ban advocates will cite Marriott's decision as evidence that banning smoking is not bad for business. Yet in my opinion this decision is evidence that service companies are respnsive to changes in consumer preferences and demands. Marriott's decision was driven by market pressures, specifically by a recognition that it was more costly to try and accomodate both smokers and non-smokers than to go smoke-free. Similalrly, many restaurants and bars have banned or limited smoking because they would prefer to attract non-smoking patrons. The point is that if a substantial percentage of consumers want smoke-free accomodations, enough businesses should respond to satisfy that preference. And, if the rate of change is too slow for some, I would recommend than smoking-ban proponents devote their resources to pressuring firms to adopt smoking limitations, instead of lobbying for legislative smoking bans than deny a singificant portion of people (the 20 percent or so of Americans who still smoke) the opportunity to seek accomodations that meet their preferences. I quit smoking cigarettes years ago, and enjoy smoke-free restaurants, but I see no need to impose my preferences on others through legislative fiat.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. More on Smoking Bans:
  2. Marriott Goes Smoke-Free:
Hovsep Joseph (mail) (www):
Similalrly, many restaurants and bars have banned or limited smoking because they would prefer to attract non-smoking patrons.

Do you have evidence to support the claim that many bars and restaurants banned smoking alltogether before legislatively-imposed bans were in place. That may be true somewhere, but I don't think that's remotely true in New York.

Also, I have to wonder how much the existence of legislatively-imposed bans influenced customer preferences/consciousness, which in turn made it economically rational for businesses to impose their own bans.
7.20.2006 10:47am
JosephSlater (mail):
One reason to support legislative bans is to protect the health of employees of, say, bars. The evidence about the harms of second-hand smoke is pretty conclusive. Recall that one of the first major bans on smoking in commerical establishments was won by a union of flight attendants, who correctly understood the health risks to their members of prolonged exposure to second-hand smoke.
7.20.2006 11:12am
GregC (mail):
Hovsep,

Recall that McDonald's banned smoking in all it's company-owned (as opposed to franchisee owned) restaurants back in the early 1990s. That move was followed by several other fast food chains doing the same within a few years.
7.20.2006 11:13am
Tennessean (mail):
The problem is not that "service companies are [not] respnsive to changes in consumer preferences and demands," but instead that their responses are often too little, too late.

I guarantee you that a quick survey of hotel availability will show that non-smoking room rental rates overwhelm smoking room rental rates, and I can tell you from personal experience looking for a room to break up a long trip, that hotel after hotel had only smoking rooms available, and often had many.

Hence, this is not about "imposing preferences." Marriott's tardy effort notwithstanding, this is about a mammoth market failure.
7.20.2006 11:21am
jimbino (mail):

I quit smoking cigarettes years ago, and enjoy smoke-free restaurants, but I see no need to impose my preferences on others through legislative fiat.


Fine, but aren't all health, safety and zoning regulations founded on exactly that, not to mention taxes on alcohol and banning of drugs and mis-education of children Yes, let's kill off the nanny state. I was happy during the old regime, when I just walked up to smokers polluting my air and offered to help them put out their cigarettes. And if the nanny state has any validity, it is in protecting children confined in small spaces with smoking parents!
7.20.2006 11:25am
Hovsep Joseph (mail) (www):
GregC: Good point on fast food joints. Perhaps "family-oriented" establishments were slightly more proactive on the anti-smoking front. I guess the experience I am drawing from is more in bars, clubs, adult-oriented restaurants.

But I do think laws banning smoking have had a big consciousness-raising effect on consumers. I didn't realize just how offensive smoke was until after New York banned smoking in public places because there weren't any nonsmoking bars available against which to compare. I was ambivalent about smoking bans before even though I've never been a smoker myself. But now, as both a consumer and voter, I personally am much more supportive of keeping other people's smoke out of the public environment.
7.20.2006 11:55am
NYU 2L:
In parts of the country less, um, cosmopolitan than New York, plenty of places have gone smoke-free without a ban. I grew up in the Cleveland suburbs, and while there's still no ban, lots of restaurants and some bars have gone completely smoke free. My office here for the summer and its adjoining mall are both smoke free. Unfortunately, one of my favorite sports bars still isn't, but if a smoke-free alternative popped up I'd go there instead. Not because of the harm from secondhand smoke, which is minor if at all, but because I don't like my clothes smelling like smoke.

My feeling is that as long as you know their smoking policy in advance, they should be able to have whatever policy they want. It's your choice to go inside, and there are plenty of smoke-free alternatives out there. Where there's market demand, entrepreneurs rush in to fill it.
7.20.2006 1:08pm
GermanBusiness:
Agreed: If you have even one employee who needs the money you pay them...then you must not be allowed to pollute that persons air on the job.

If a Republican is worried about the "Nanny State"...better to ask their Republican Senator why he voted for the IMBRA law which makes it a privilege and not a right for Americans to even say "hello" to foreigners. The IMBRA law, written by the nanny state Democrats to "protect" non-existent "mail order brides" is under restraining order by a federal judge in Georgia. But a federal judge in Ohio has stated his feelings that "the Supreme Court has never recognized a fundamental liberty interest in Americans meeting foreigners for relationships".

In the MSM and also on the Blogosphere...weak and pathetic American metrosexuals (yes that means most right wing bloggers as well) decide what gets discussed and what doesn't.

This smoking issue is old hat and nothing compared to the huge loss of rights we all face as a radical feminist organization, the Tahirih Justice Center for Womyn, works with the fraudulent Lifetime Television for Womyn to rabidly fight in the courts (in place of the government) to make sure the courts do not overturn IMBRA.

This law would put James Bond in jail for chatting up the foreign Bond girls.
7.20.2006 1:10pm
Hovsep Joseph (mail) (www):
NYU2l: My experience is from living upstate, which is decidedly less cosmopolitan than either NYC or Cleveland.
7.20.2006 1:57pm
Mark F. (mail):
One reason to support legislative bans is to protect the health of employees of, say, bars. The evidence about the harms of second-hand smoke is pretty conclusive.

No it's not. You'd have to be in a bar 200 hours to inhale the amount of smoke a smoker gets by smoking one cigarette. Numerous peer reviewed studies have found no or negligible effect from secondhand smoke.

And employment at bars in voluntary. You can quit if you don't like the working conditions.
7.20.2006 2:29pm
Gob Bluth:
Hovsep,

May I humbly suggest that the reasons bars have not gone "no smoking" due to customer demand. Importantly, a there are a number of "I only smoke when I drink" folk out there who like a smoke in the bar.

We have an interesting situation in St. Louis, where we have many small municipal suburbs. Here, bar owners have argued that the ban must be county wide, so consumers don't vote with their feet and drive to the next town. I, for one, would like to see a municipal ban, just to see if it really would deter patrons.
7.20.2006 2:38pm
PersonFromPorlock:
This or that provision of the nanny state can always be defended, but at some point don't the presumptions of incompetence underlying each one add up to a general presumption that the average citizen is no longer competent enough to (for instance) serve on a jury?
7.20.2006 3:11pm
Tennessean (mail):
NYU 2L: Although I'd like to agree with you that "[w]here there's market demand, entrepreneurs rush in to fill it," all of my experience is contradictory (see my prior post for an example).

Only a slight minority of my friends smoke. All of my friends drink. All of my friends who don't smoke would prefer to have a beer in a bar with no smoke (mostly for aesthetic reasons). Despite this, I can think of only _1_ bar here in town that has gone smoke-free (and we all like that bar and go there for just that reason, despite being otherwise a bar we'd probably not visit very often).

Likewise, as I noted, the demand for non-smoking rooms overwhelms the supply, and yet hotels are very slow to change (as will be apparent if you try to find non-smoking hotel room any time after sunset during the summer).

There are surely endless examples of market failures like this, both related to smoking and otherwise. While I am big fan of microeconomics and law and economics, the true meat of the matter has to be in analyzing imperfect markets, which are really the only markets there are.
7.20.2006 3:13pm
logicnazi (mail) (www):
Remember that Mariott's customers aren't all american. As a big hotel they host many foreigners visiting the united states many of whom smoke. The Japanese in particular are big smokers I understand.

I suspect at the very least this deciscion does not apply to the japanese areas (many hotels have them I assume Marriott does as well) in Mariott hotels.

Also I find it weird that this could be motivated by concern for the bottom line. The absolute percent of smokers staying in Mariott hotels is really irrelevant. What matters is the existance of a stable percentage of smokers amoung the clientel at any particular hotel. So long as your hotel never has more than 95% of it's capacity filled by individuals who have a significant preference for a non-smoking room then it is in your interest to retain 5% of your rooms for smokers.

Moreover, it is often in the economic interest of places like hotels or restaurants to at least make things palatable for minorities. Just as many meat oriented restaurants offer vegetarian options so people with a vegetarian friends will still consider the option it seems foolish to totally ban smoking when this likely means some groups with many non-smokers won't stay at the Mariott. I mean if just one executive on a buisness trip smokes he might choose a different hotel for everyone.

Perhaps the economic justification is based on insurance premiums, i.e., no smokers means lower fire insurance rates. Or perhaps this is just a PR ploy and they still intend to let people smoke under the table.
7.20.2006 3:21pm
logicnazi (mail) (www):
Also the smokers bother other people argument doesn't really go through either. If you have dedicated smoking rooms it is easy to partition people into smoking rooms. On the other hand if you refuse to permit smoking at all you have virtually guaranteed that people will flout your policy and smoke secretly in other rooms.

I suspect by banning smoking entierly rather than limiting it to a small number of dedicated rooms they will actually increase the problems with smoking smell rather than decrease them. After all you can never prove after the fact that someone smoked and people tend to regard their hotel rooms like little islands of home where other people don't get to tell them what to do. I don't smoke and if I choose a non-smoking room I would try to abide by the policy but if a hotel gave me no choice and I wanted to have a girl over who smoked I wouldn't hesitate to violate it.
7.20.2006 3:54pm
Debauched Sloth (mail):
As a libertarian, I find smoking bans profoundly disrespectful of private property rights. But the behavior of most smokers in public places is profoundly disrespectful too. Can you imagine pushing back from a nice dinner at a restaurant and asking your fellow diners whether they mind if you fart? Or how about repeatedly saying the f-word around a family with young children just because you have the "right" to do so -- does that make it any less rude? Smokers often respond that it's OK for them to impose their noxious habit on nonsmokers in, say, a bar because you "expect" people to smoke in bars. Great logic. There are still plenty of bars where women and minorities can reasonably "expect" to hear insensitive comments and jokes. But apparently they've got nothing to complain about because (a) they should expect it, and (b) they can always leave. The bottom line is that most smokers have an illogical sense of entitlement to engage in conduct that would be rude, crude, and socially unacceptable if it involved anything other than cigarettes. I regret that nonsmokers have responded by trashing private property rights, but I shed not a tear for the smokers themselves.
7.20.2006 4:37pm
Oris (mail) (www):
logicnazi,

If someone smokes in a room, the smell lingers for a good long time, especially if that room doesn't have windows that open. The last time I stayed in a hotel, there was a friendly little card reminding us that this was a non-smoking room, and informing us that if we chose to disregard this rule, that a $300 "cleaning fee" would be charged to our credit card. That alone should be sufficient disincentive for most people. Maybe you'll be able to air out the room well enough that no one will notice, but that's an expensive gamble.
7.20.2006 5:00pm
JosephSlater (mail):
You'd have to be in a bar 200 hours to inhale the amount of smoke a smoker gets by smoking one cigarette. Numerous peer reviewed studies have found no or negligible effect from secondhand smoke. And employment at bars in voluntary. You can quit if you don't like the working conditions.

As to the first point, link to the "200 hours" claim? More generally, I assume you've seen the new government reports on the harms of second-hand smoking.

As to the second point, do you therefore oppose all worker health and safety rules?
7.20.2006 6:46pm
Kevin Murphy:
Not to compare the two situations, but claiming that it takes legislative fiats to force companies to bend to popular intolerance ignores the whole history of Jim Crow.
7.20.2006 6:47pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Um, my previous post should have begun: "Mark F. writes," which would apply to the first paragraph.
7.20.2006 6:48pm
Kevin Murphy:
Joeseph--

I assume you've seen the report, and not just the press comments which didn't even get the abstract right?
7.20.2006 6:48pm
Fub:
Debauched Sloth wrote:
The bottom line is that most smokers have an illogical sense of entitlement to engage in conduct that would be rude, crude, and socially unacceptable if it involved anything other than cigarettes. I regret that nonsmokers have responded by trashing private property rights, but I shed not a tear for the smokers themselves.
On that basis how could anyone not be overjoyed by a government prohibition on being overweight in or near any public accomidation?

Anyone who has ever been trapped on a plane or bus between two inconsiderate fat people taking up 1.5 seats apiece will rejoice at the prospect of banning fat. Anyone who has ever had to wait for some overweight person to waddle and squeeze through an ordinary door will be delighted by relief from the inconvenience. Anyone who has suffered trepidation in an elevator overloaded by overweight people will understand the safety reasons to ban fat.

The bottom line is that overweight people engage in conduct that would be rude, crude, and socially unacceptable if it involved anything other than body fat. If anyone carried all that fat around in buckets instead of under their skin they would be arrested for creating a public health nuisance. If anyone boarded an airplane with luggage the size of some passengers' posteriors, they'd be told to check it with the non-carryon luggage.

I regret that slender people might responded by trashing private property rights, but I shed not a tear for the overweight people themselves. They have a choice whether to be overweight. They should be denied any public space or accomodation as long as they make that choice.

After that, government should ban mouth-breathers, fingernail chewers and cellphone talkers. These nanny crusades needn't stop until there are exactly two people outside prison, because neither can gain a majority vote to persecute an "offensive" minority.
7.20.2006 7:52pm
Mark H.:
I'm not sure which study or paper Mark F. is referencing Joseph Slater, but here's one piece I happened to have handy, excerpt:


A New England Journal of Medicine study found that even back in 1975—when having smoked obnoxiously puffed into your face was ubiquitous in restaurants, cocktail lounges, and transportation lounges—the concentration was equal to merely 0.004 cigarettes an hour. In scientific terminology, that's called a "tiny amount."


That would translate to about 250 hours for the equivilent of one cigarette, or to put it another way, working a 10 hour shift in a smoke filled bar 7 days a week for a year, with no vacation time would equal smoking about 3/4s of a pack in that year.

I heard too, that the surgeon general came out with some sort of statement, but I haven't read the report and doubt that the MSM quoted it or him accurately.
7.20.2006 8:00pm
Tennessean (mail):
In the interests of tangents, head here for the recent Surgeon general's report. From the Executive Summary: "This report documents the mounting and now substantial evidence characterizing the health risks caused by exposure to secondhand smoke." P. 22.

I haven't read the report itself (work has to get done sometime), but I'd hazard that the Surgeon General does not take Mark H.'s position.
7.20.2006 8:25pm
Master Shake:
From the first paragraph of the surgeon general's press release:

Nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke at home or work increase their risk of developing heart disease by 25 to 30 percent and lung cancer by 20 to 30 percent. The finding is of major public health concern due to the fact that nearly half of all nonsmoking Americans are still regularly exposed to secondhand smoke.
7.20.2006 8:45pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
I like to fly with an unlighted cigar in my mouth for my oral fixation. It pisses nonsmokers off to no end. I worked 6 months in an Italian hospital in 1996 and the Doctors and Nurses smoked on the wards and at the Nursing stations, and its still a top notch hospital. Anyone seen a Neurosurgeon with a tatoo? Thats my sign of the apolcalypse. I've seen some younger docs with tats, but none who've made it through a neurosurgery residency as yet.
7.20.2006 10:14pm
Mark H.:
Tennessean, I'll see your "hazard" and raise you to certainty :-)

But seriously, I don't have a position, yet. I tend to think that the report I referenced (and others I've read over the years) is more substantial than the politicized position of our government, but I'll wait and see how the report gets sliced and diced by the opposition before acknowledging defeat or reveling in victory.

It would be nice, though, if Bush smoked, so this study could be quashed along with the global warming stuff that he suppresses to help his oil buddies -- I know he suppresses those reports because some guy that works for him tells me so every few months on 60 Minutes :-)
7.20.2006 10:26pm
chrismn (mail):
On thing that bothers me about this thread is the assertion of "imperfect markets." Lots of markets are imperfect for a variety of reasons. What the people in this thread are asserting is not "imperfect markets", but the far less plausible "profoundly stupid business owners." That is, these posters seem to believe that they can tell a bar or hotel owner an easy recipe for making him more profitable: ban smoking. (Owner slapping forehead: "Why didn't I think of that!")

Call me overly humble ( You're overly humble! ed. ) but I actually think that hotel owners know more about running hotels and bar owners know more about running bars than I do (or you do). If you want a plausible reason why it's a good for businesses to force them to do what they can do without being forced any day, you have to come up with a reason why they would want to do it if all the other like businesses did it as well, but not if they do it alone.
7.21.2006 10:33am
SeaLawyer:
The crusade against smoking has never been about public health. People who don't smoke don't like smelling smoke and want it banned.
7.21.2006 11:13am
logicnazi (mail) (www):
Oris,

I know. I just came back from my dad's who smokes and now all my clothes smell horrible. This is exactly why the smoking ban is a bad idea.

Non-smokers should be able to stay in rooms that don't stink of smoke (and if you want to smoke you have to stay in such a room). If you ban smoking entierly smokers will just smoke in the non-smoking rooms and you won't be able to prove they did. If you let them smoke only in the smokers rooms they will volountarily self-segragate.
7.21.2006 4:28pm
cj (mail):
Unless something changed since the first week of July, when we last stayed in a Marriott hotel -- despite the decals claiming it was a non-smoking facility, you could in fact smoke in 3 places (2 outside, and THE LOBBY BAR). So, in fact, they were driving smokers to the bar, where just about every smoker would order at least a high-priced soft drink for the privilege of sitting and smoking.

Not too dumb a business strategy, if you ask me.
7.21.2006 8:31pm