Smokin' Stats About Colorado DUI Deaths

Booze kills. Tobacco kills. The combination ain't nothing nice, either, but selective smoking bans can make the whole situation even deadlier, according to a forthcoming study that probes some alarming figures about drunk-driving deaths along the Front Range.

"Drunk Driving After the Passage of Smoking Bans in Bars," an article by economists Scott Adams and Chad Cotti to be published in the June issue of the Journal of Public Economics (and cited in this month's issue of The Atlantic), tackles the unintended consequences of local smoking bans. The authors found that auto fatalities involving alcohol rose significantly as a result of the bans because nicotine-loving lushes had to drive farther to find some place to drink and smoke at the same time. More driving = more driving drunk = more deaths.

And where did the researchers find the worst-case scenario of all? Right here, folks. Well before the statewide smoking ban went into effect, Boulder County declared its own bars and restaurants to be smoke-free zones — and DUI fatalites in Jefferson County then surged by 40 percent, triple the average for other areas of the country. We can only surmise that a lot of Boulder drunks were weaving their way down state highway 93 to the posh taverns of Arvada and Golden in search of a boilermaker and a gasper or two.

Now that the rest of Colorado has followed Boulder's lead, the question of smoking bans and driving habits may be a dead issue, so to speak. But Adams and Cotti also suggest that some patrons, denied their cigarettes in bars, end up getting more drunk without the nicotine to counter the effects of alcohol. So call those Marlboro men and husky-voiced Virginia Slims a cab, won't you? – Alan Prendergast

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Sean Cronin