Wednesday, June 15, 2005

"Your'e treating us like children -- retarded children."

Great stuff on smoking bans from Balko (and Hitchens, quoted in the header), Healy, and Sanchez. The context for all the pieces is the D.C. City Council banning smoking in bars, but excepting the compromise bill they note, all of it is widely applicable.

My short take, of course, is that I'm against these bans. The biggest reason is not the property rights issue, "discussed" by Selley and Jardine in the comments here (although it would be nice if ban proponents would concede that they are compromising your property rights, and at least be explicit about the trade-off they are proposing).

My deep objection to these bans is that there is no "end of the line". I certainly can't think of a logical one. Ban proponents give every indication that no victory is ever final, i.e. cause for retirement. If smoking in bars is banned, we will merely move on to having the identical discussion about a new venue in a couple of years. And then another.

There is no medical or philosophical argument put forth in favour of smoking bans in bars that could not be applied similarly, and presumably equally successfully, to smoking just about anywhere, including in your own garage. Is there?

2 Comments:

At 5:34 PM, Blogger sacamano said...

There is no medical or philosophical argument put forth in favour of smoking bans in bars that could not be applied similarly, and presumably equally successfully, to smoking just about anywhere, including in your own garage. Is there?

There is one: if, for the sake of argument, you consider second-hand smoke to be a health risk for employees, it might make sense for regulations to exist to prevent their exposure to that risk.

Most jobs have such regulations. You can't, for example, wear flip-flops to a construction site, but you can certainly wear them in your own garage. There are probably all kinds of air-quality laws for factories, but as far as I know you are entirely free to sit in your own garage with the car running.

If framed this way, smoking bans in bars would have nothing to do with protecting patrons, and everything to do with protecting employees.

You could argue that if bars were free to decide whether to go smoking or non-smoking, then employees would be free to find employment that best suits their needs. But, in general, this doesn't really work all that well, which is why we don't allow it for other potentially harmful substances or acts.

Should we, for example, allow companies to permit their employees to be regularly exposured to potentially harmful substances such as mercury, lead, radiation, asbestoes, etc., so long as the employees know that they will be exposed to these things before they sign up for the job?

Maybe, but I think that in the long run this isn't a very sensible approach, and history shows that it disproportionately affects the poor.

Of course, this argument depends entirely on second-hand smoke being harmful, which I imagine you do not take as a given. It is also not the argument that anti-smoking legislation generally uses and so is probably moot.

 
At 9:31 PM, Blogger Meaghan Champion said...

For that matter, it doesn't even have to apply to smoking...

In fact, if enough goddamn idiots wanted it, to quote an article Billy Beck wrote, that I once tried to sell on his behalf to the yoyos at the National Post, they could, based on the premises of these insane creepy busy-body lawmakers, just as well pass bans on "Wearing Pink-Tutus".

 

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