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“I swear, by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.”     Ayn Rand

February 15, 2006

The Ever-Widening Smoking Ban

by Brad Warbiany

The concept of public smoking bans, in my opinion, really gives you an insight into the psyche of a person. This is one of those issues that really separates those who believe in smaller-government-enforcing-their-own-biases from those who truly believe in smaller government and private property rights. I see a true protector of private property rights in a guy like Doug, of Below the Beltway. Doug doesn’t like smoke, to the point where being around it even makes him ill. But he doesn’t accept the idea of government forcing businesses to change the terms of business on their own property. Despite what the Virginia Senate has to say about it:

Nonetheless, this is the closest Virginia has come to banning smoking in any form and it does not bode well for the future. One or two elections more, and the fate of a bill like this in the House of Delegates could be quite different. And the breadth and scope of the proposed ban is really quite extraordinary:

The Virginia ban would include banks, bars, educational facilities, health care facilities, hotel and motel lobbies, laundromats, public transportation, reception areas, retail food production and marketing establishments, retail services establishments, retail stores, shopping malls, sports arenas, theaters and waiting rooms. Hotels could also set aside no more than 25 percent of their rooms for smokers.

Outside of an ocassional cigar, I am not, and never have been, a smoker. Cigarette smoke in particular makes me ill and, in a restaurant, I generally prefer to sit in the non-smoking section. That doesn’t mean, though, that I believe that I or anyone else in the Commonwealth has the right to tell a restaurant or bar owner that they shouldn’t be permitted to make a choice to allow or ban smoking in their establishment. If there really is increasing support for smoking restrictions, then restaurants and bars that don’t allow it should do just fine. At the same time, though, a business owner who chooses to have a smoking section in their restaurant or allow smoking at their bar should be permitted to do so.

But not everyone takes this view. Oddly, many who oppose government restriction in other areas are just loving this. After all, for many non-smokers, it is a constant annoyance to be in a restaurant or bar filled with smoke. For me, actually, as an ex-smoker, I’m always surprised now when I enter a smoke-filled bar at just how much I hate it. But I contrast Doug’s reaction, and my own, with this thread at beeradvocate.com.

Beeradvocate.com is the first place where I heard about freethehops.org, the web site devoted to ending Alabama’s prohibition on beers above 6% ABV. And I’d say, to a person, that the members of beeradvocate.com would reject the notion that it is the government’s place to determine what percentage alcohol should be in the beer an individual buys. Of course, they don’t say they’d like to force liquor stores to carry high-alcohol beers. But they want them to have the option, if the purveyor of the establishment so chooses.

But a large portion of them don’t offer bar owners the same choice. They’re more than happy to decree what a bar owner must allow and not allow in his bar, because smoking offends their personal sensibilities. The government stepping in to do something they don’t like (restricting beer sales) is offensive. But the government stepping in, doing the same basic thing, to restrict a behavior they disapprove of is no problem.

There is a dividing line between conservatives and libertarians, and this is one of the markers between the two. Non-smoking conservatives are usually quick to denounce smokers, and love the idea of smoking bans, because it stops people from engaging in behavior they disagree with. Non-smoking libertarians, on the other hand, may hate walking into smoke-filled bars, but understand that it is the decision of the bar owner to make. We don’t always like the results of freedom, but to a libertarian, the alternative of oppression– even well-meaning oppression– is unacceptable.


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16 Comments

  1. [...] The liberty paper published an interesting post on Smoke banning: The concept of public smoking bans, in my opinion, really gives you an insight into the psyche of a person. This is one of those issues that really separates those who believe in smaller-government-enforcing-their-own-biases from those who truly believe in smaller government and private property rights. [...]

    Pingback by It looks obvious » Blog Archive » The Real Problem with Banning Smoking — February 16, 2006 @ 6:10 am
  2. Yep, I think you divided the libertarians from the conservatives correctly there – I too am a non-smoker who tends to get ill when I’m around very little smoke (incidentally, I think I became far less tolerant physically after working in a completely non-smoking environment for 6 years), yet, when the state of Florida put it to a vote, I voted in favor of the smokers! A part of me enjoys the fact that we can now go into any restaurant without my nasal passages being offended, but I feel it was the wrong thing to do – and I was not a part of the community who banned public smoking.

    Comment by Kay — February 16, 2006 @ 6:18 am
  3. I think that the non-smoking ban is a bad idea. yes i am a smoker so i will see the worst in this sintuation. what happens when 50% of people stop smoking, there will be so much tax lost through that, also people who like to go out drinknig will stop as they can’t have a cigarette which will loose more tax. also in the daily mirror it states that £5,000 will be spent on shelts for smokers, this will still release smoke into the air. also what if a policeman sees 100 people in the street smoking is he going to arrest them all. i dont think so. and you have got to think if people can’t smoke in the street then they are going to sit at home and do it intoxicating their children, getting home delivery for food and this will make more and more people very fat causing more strain on our NHS which will aging mean that taxes are going to be raised dramatically. who ever enforeces this obviously hasn’t thought it through for every body only the non-smokers of the country.

    Comment by Tobias — February 16, 2006 @ 10:33 am
  4. I need help. I recently debated the very narrow issue of outdoor, public-space smoking bans. While I am against the gov’t telling any restaurant or bar owner how to run his business, I had no argument to use against a ban on smoking on public land, specifically sidewalks. Am I just missing something obvious?
    - Ben

    Comment by Benjamin — February 17, 2006 @ 9:31 am
  5. Second-hand smoke is ‘akin to assault,’ Eric grumbles.

    Comment by John Newman — February 19, 2006 @ 2:30 pm
  6. http://www.thelibertypapers.org/2006/01/31/carnival-of-liberty-xxx/#comment-403

    Comment by Eric — February 19, 2006 @ 6:15 pm
  7. Error 404 – Not Found
    Return to the main page.

    If you believe you reached this page in error, E-mail Eric

    Do you finnaly admit you are wrong?!?!?!?!

    Comment by John Newman — February 20, 2006 @ 9:46 am
  8. I don’t get an error. All I have done is provided a link to the comment you are talking about so that folks can read it for themselves.

    Comment by Eric — February 20, 2006 @ 10:47 am
  9. The point is, you said it.

    Comment by John Newman — February 21, 2006 @ 8:17 am
  10. They may want to read the entire comment, not just the piece you pulled out that ignores the full context. Kind of like other conversations where you’ve been called on context and what someone actually said, as opposed to what you decided to spin.

    Comment by Eric — February 21, 2006 @ 9:07 am
  11. Ben,

    There is no argument based upon individual rights that you can necessarily use to say such on public land. What I would suggest, though, is the argument that the dangers of secondhand smoke in an open, public area are so miniscule as to make it absolutely pointless to ban smoking.

    You can point out that you’re much more likely to experience ill health effects due to the smog generated by automobiles in the area, or any number of other pollutants, than you would by exposure to minute amounts of secondhand smoke. I see no rights-based argument for suggesting that smoking on public land is legal, because there is no way to contain the emanation of that smoke. But I would argue from a statistical standpoint that the danger to those around you is so incredibly minuscule that it would make little sense to impose such a ban.

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — February 21, 2006 @ 9:12 am
  12. “This means that smoking in enclosed spaces is akin to assault.” Eric Grumbles

    That is exactly what you said.

    Comment by John Newman — February 21, 2006 @ 3:18 pm
  13. *sighs* yes, but you apparently are deciding to be obtuse about what “out of context” means. I notice when you slammed me in another thread for something, and got called on it, you just stopped responding. How about if you quote the entire comment. Clearly when someone writes: “This means that …. ” there is something they are referring to prior to the word this, some idea. By omitting that idea you change the entire context of the sentence you quoted.

    Comment by Eric — February 21, 2006 @ 3:59 pm
  14. Regardless of what the ‘this’ was, and in this instance the ‘this’ was nonsense, your statement followed suit when you said it ‘is akin to assault.’
    People that wear smelly cologne and hairspray bother my nose and eyes in enclosed places, some of these products contain carcinogens. Do I have a right to expect them not to use these legally manufactured products that assault me?

    As far as not responding, my head gets sore after beating it against a brick wall after a while.

    Comment by John Newman — February 21, 2006 @ 4:26 pm
  15. If my actions cause harm to someone else (notice the word IF), and I know that they cause harm or injury, and I decide to do them anyhow, how am I not responsible for causing injury to the other person?

    If, on the other hand, my actions don’t cause physical harm or injury, and it’s not private property, I should be able to act as I see fit.

    The real question with smoking bans, then, is whether second hand smoke causes physical harm or injury to other people. The evidence is inconclusive one direction or another. Bearing that in mind, smoking bans without further evidence that strongly indicate physical harm to others are tyranny of the majority politics.

    About the “sore head” bit. You made a statement that someone else found to be unsubstantiated. Then ignored it when you were ask to provide the offending statements. It is clear that you have an agenda. It’s clear that you like stirring the pot. And it’s clear that you avoid providing substance when anyone calls you for your inaccuracies, blaming it on “beating your head on the wall”.

    There is certainly nothing to be gained through discussion with you. Feel free to comment anytime you want, but I have no intention of further discussion with you.

    Comment by Eric — February 21, 2006 @ 4:54 pm
  16. You and Bubba, it depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.

    Comment by John Newman — February 21, 2006 @ 7:39 pm

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