Dr. Cullen Goenner, Professor and Faculty Fellow for the Department of Economics, conducted research on the impact of tobacco legislation on economic activity in the city of Grand Forks, North Dakota. In August of 2005, the state of North Dakota implemented legislation prohibiting smoking in most workplaces, with an exemption for bars, truck stops, and casinos. Businesses were concerned that the implementation of this legislation would reduce their revenues due to a decrease in customers who smoked and would therefore now choose to stay home. In August 2010, the city of Grand Forks extended the legislation to now include the formerly exempted workplaces with businesses again concerned about the financial impact.
Goenner got engaged with this project due to his affiliation with the Social Science Research Institute located on the University of North Dakota campus. The SSRI, is a unit within the College of Business and Public Administration and was established in 1954 to foster research and dialog in the social sciences at the University of North Dakota. Director of the Institute, Cordell Fontaine had previously conducted research in this area on a state level so when approached by the Grand Forks Tobacco Free Coalition for this project he brought in Goenner to research the economic impact.
The Grand Forks Tobacco Free Coalition is managed through Grand Forks Public Health. The study they wanted to look it was to evaluate the economic evidence of the law changes as the original belief of the business owners was that restaurants would be adversely impacted and bars positively impacted.
Goenner began work on the project in fall 2012, and worked with the state tax commission for data collection. He looked at sales data from firms in the restaurant and bar category and used a variety of statistical techniques. Goenner's findings showed that there was no evidence of the legislation having an impact, as the industry as a whole was not affected. The results of the study were released mid- January. Detailed information regarding the study can be found at: www.tobaccobytes.com.