Evidence has emerged overseas to counter hospitality industry fears that a proposed ban on smoking in restaurants would damage business. An Australian study in the state of Victoria - which introduced smoke-free dining laws a year ago - found the ban encouraged more people to eat out. Eight per cent of 2,000 people surveyed reported eating out more often, four per cent less often and 88 per cent no change. The survey by the Victorian government found support for smoke-free dining laws had grown among smokers, three-quarters of whom backed the restaurant smoking ban. In Hong Kong, catering industry legislator Tommy Cheung Yu-yan has voiced fears a ban would reduce turnover and increase unemployment. An industry study by KPMG - dismissed as flawed by anti-smoking groups and the government - predicted a ban would cost 21,500 jobs and a loss of $7.9 billion a year in catering receipts. But government surveys released last week concluded that banning smoking would increase turnover by $4 billion a year and create 11,000 extra jobs. Almost 75 per cent of people preferred smoke-free restaurants. In Australia, the president of the Restaurant and Catering Association of Victoria, Dur-e Dara, said most restaurants had not been affected by the ban. The exceptions tended to be places that relied heavily on customers who came in regularly for a quick coffee and cigarette or restaurants where it was difficult for smokers to walk outside for a cigarette between courses. Ms Dara, who owns EQ Cafe Bar and co-owns the Nudel Bar, in Melbourne, said there was a new group of customers - people who had previously stayed home because they disliked smoke. Tobacco companies had employed 'scare tactics' before the ban was introduced, trying to convince restaurateurs their businesses would suffer and to portray the move as a loss of customers' democratic rights. Democrat legislator Andrew Cheng Kar-foo said the government already had more than enough evidence to support the introduction of a restaurant smoking ban. 'This is crazy. They should move faster,' he said. The government plans to announce policy recommendations on smoking in restaurants later this year, but Mr Cheng has urged they propose legislative amendments instead. He believes a smoking ban in Hong Kong would boost restaurant patronage more markedly than in Australia because a smaller proportion of the population smoked in the territory.