Smoking Bans – Who Should Decide?

By Rebekah Fiedler (Stonegait Institute)

SI smoking banMore and more groups are popping up around the country advocating for state and local governments to implement smoking bans in privately owned bars, restaurants, and other establishments. Their rationale is that second-hand smoke is a danger to society and that bans imposed on smoking is necessary for the health and safety of workers and patrons.

At first glance, many people, smokers and non-smokers alike, think this is a good thing. However, upon further research, it turns out that these bans are harmful for small businesses and local economies. Small-town bars and diners are often primarily patronized by smokers, and much of their business comes from people who want to have a cigarette with their dinner or drinks. Bowling alleys and pool halls are also negatively affected by forced smoking bans.

The real problem with government-imposed smoking bans on privately owned businesses is an issue of liberty. The government is not fully capable of knowing what is best for each individual business. Broad regulations such as a smoking bans and high taxes on sodas put important business decisions that will severely effect profit margins into the hands of the government, as opposed to being at the discretion of owners and managers.

2000px-No_Smoking.svgAs for the health and safety of workers and patrons, these issues also come down to individual liberty. The free market sorts problems out on its own. If a non-smoker does not want to be around smoke, they can simply choose not to go to a restaurant that allows smoking. If all the diners in town choose to be non-smoking, a hole in the market is created that some entrepreneur can fill for the smokers in town. If an individual does not want to work in a smoking environment, they can simply choose to work somewhere else.

Often times, money and pressure come from big cities and statewide organizations to try to force these bans onto small towns. They seek the support of several individuals in a town, then begin petitioning and advertising. That very thing happened in my city.

As a non-smoker, the idea of restaurants being smoke-free is appealing to me. I would not choose to patronize establishments where people are smoking throughout, but that is my choice. As a lover of liberty, I understand that Americans should not want the government to make decisions for us or small business owners, most of which are operating on very small profit margins.

All but a handful of places in town were already smoke-free, simply because that was what the business owners decided to do. The few places that the ban would effect were most likely going to suffer losses if the government forced them to be non-smoking, as it would have forced people to go to other small towns near mine to smoke while they had dinner. I went to many of these businesses to ask if they would help me petition to keep the decision in the hands of business owners instead of the government. Most of them were more than willing to help, and together we gathered hundreds of signatures to show our city council that there were plenty of people who absolutely did not want them to make these decisions for us.

Ultimately, liberty won that battle in my city. Our five councilmen were split on how to handle it, and since there was no consensus as to what a potential bill should say, no bill was even drafted to vote on. However, it seems that this issue is going to continue to come up, not only in my city and state, but nationwide. I will continue to fight this issue as it comes up, so that business decisions can be made by business owners, and not by the government. Will you join me?

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