30 May 2006
In an article in today’s Wall Street Journal, Calabasas, California city officials are lauding their draconian law which prohibits all smoking outdoors, except in city-approved designated “smoking areas.” In effect, the city government has laid claim to and commandeered the air, preventing adults from exercising their individual rights to free choice.
Most reasonable people observing the Calabasas calamity from the outside agree that outdoor smoking bans go way too far. No scientific or medical data have ever even suggested that banning smoking outdoors reduces exposure to second-hand smoke.
Which brings us to the unfortunate heart of this controversial issue: If Calabasas officials aren’t trying to “protect” nonsmokers, they must be trying to “protect” smokers, the very people who are consciously choosing to smoke. That shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, the aim of every smoking ban – whether outdoors or inside private buildings – is for the government to control the actions of consenting adults.
But what about the waitresses and bartenders who work in smoking facilities? What about all the nonsmokers who frequent these businesses? Aren’t smoking bans intended to protect these people from second-hand smoke?
First of all, the notion of second-hand smoke as an epidemic is totally overblown. While the AFL-CIO claims in a press release that “second-hand smoke is estimated to cause 65,000 deaths per year in the U.S.,” that number is just plain wrong. It’s 20 times the estimate of the Center for Disease Control, and even the CDC estimate was roundly rejected by a federal court.
Second, since public health isn’t really a factor, most nonsmokers who support smoking bans in private businesses do so because they don’t like the smell – not because they’re concerned for their health. “It gets in my hair,” they whine. Well, guess what? This is America. No one – I mean no one – has the right to ban the actions of others simply because they’re annoyed. That’s certainly not a principle America’s founding generation fought and died for.
What these aggravating gripers do have is the right to take their business elsewhere. As in any case in public policy, free markets – not government bans and regulations on private businesses – work perfectly. If there is a demand for smoke-free facilities, smart entrepreneurs will rise to the occasion. In fact, here’s a list of literally hundreds of nonsmoking facilities in my hometown provided by Smoke Free DC, the idiot group that squelched individual free choice in – of all places – our nation’s capital.
Finally, any waitress, bartender, or busboy who works in a smoking facility knew well in advance of his or her first day that customers’ smoke would come with the territory. If they’re so bothered by second-hand smoke, there’s plenty of other jobs out there to consider.
The bottom line is that consenting adults have rights to do with their bodies what they so please, and private business owners have rights to offer the accommodations they so choose. Whatever the perceived social ill, government regulation and intervention is almost certainly a “cure” worse than the disease.