Sunday, September 28, 2003

Anti-smoking laws burn out the free matchbook

By Wayne T. Price
Florida Today

Because of recently enacted no-smoking regulations in restaurants, ashtrays are nothing more than pieces of plastic hogging table space. If smoking isn't allowed, there's no need for ashtrays.

And that has restaurateurs like Frederic Ayres scratching their heads on another matter: What happens to those free matchbooks with the eateries' logos?

"I'm sure we won't need as many as we needed in the past," said Ayres, whose two Conchy Joe's restaurants are in Melbourne and Jensen Beach, Fla.

And that - aside from the wafts of blue tobacco smoke snaking through the air of your favorite restaurant - may be one of the more notable changes occurring from new anti-smoking laws.

Some restaurant operators in states with new anti-smoking ordinances think that free books of matches will become a thing of the past. It's another blow to the once-sizzling match-manufacturing industry, which first began losing some of its heat with the growing popularity of disposable lighters during the early 1970s.

"We'll probably keep some around for our customers," said Louie Andrus, owner of Cantina Dos Amigos restaurants in Indialantic and Indian Harbour Beach, Fla. "But, let's put it this way: I probably won't be ordering any more for a while."

The match industry used to have more than a dozen U.S. manufacturers raking in sales of $100 million to $200 million annually, said Mark Bean president at D.D. Bean & Sons Co., a Jaffrey, N.H.-based paper-match producer.

Now there are three U.S.-based paper-match manufacturers - and one manufacturer of wooden stick matches - who take in about $50 million in annual sales, Bean said.

"Before there were any negative connotations about smoking, it was a very, very big business," he said.

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