Q&A – Incomes Of Smokers And Dining Outdoors During The Pandemic

Today’s entry: I have noticed many restaurants still allow smoking on their outdoor patios. With COVID-19, my husband and I are only eating outdoors these days. I don’t understand why restaurants still allow people to smoke on their outdoor patios. It seems that they are missing out on a large group of potential customers today. I was curious if you know what the income levels are for smokers and non-smokers? Perhaps these business owners are missing out on a good customer base.

Bottom Line: This is an interesting question for a few reasons. Many more are choosing to eat outdoors when dining out, even during the hot South Florida summer days. In other instances, like in Miami-Dade, currently, it’s the only option if you eat out. The concern regarding eating out indoors is justified. The Texas Medical Association recently identified eating outdoors as low to moderate risk activity, while eating out indoors is a moderate to high-risk activity. To put a number to it, you’re 75% more likely to be exposed to COVID-19 if you eat inside at a restaurant as opposed to outdoors. 

To allow outdoor smoking, or not, has always been a sticky proposition but it is even more important in the context of what’s happening today. It stands to reason that restaurants, the most imperiled business category during the pandemic, want to appeal to as many customers as possible. Should this mean that restaurants that allow outdoor smoking should rethink their policy? Are they driving away customers like your family without even realizing it? 

According to the CDC, 13.7% of the adult population smokes. Without diving in any deeper, allowing smoking is only appealing to this percentage of the population while risking the alienation of about 86% of potential customers. Still, if you were the destination for those who wanted to smoke, it could still be good business. 

Regarding the income. Smoking is an expensive habit and yet the highest percentage of smokers are those which live below the federal poverty line. Those in poverty are more than twice as likely to smoke compared to the country as a whole, as 32% of adults in poverty are smokers. 

So yes, to the crux of your question, there’s a direct connection between socioeconomic status and smoking rates. It’s evidenced that those who are most likely to have the means to continue eating out during these adverse times are those who are least likely to smoke. Not all restaurants are created equal, and many owners have strategic reasons for doing what they do but for those who are just going along with it because that’s the way they’ve always done it, then yes, there’s a very good chance it’s bad business in today’s current state of affairs. 

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Email: brianmudd@iheartmedia.com

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