Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The Volokh Conspiracy - Dialogue on the Merits of Smoking Bans:

Orrin Kerr presents an interesting hypothetical debate regarding Smoking Bans . He admits to conflicting views and then describes a hypothetical pro-con debate.
CON: But we can let the market decide this. If some people want to smoke, they can go to a smoking bar or restaurant. If some people want to go to a place than bans smoking, some businesses will ban smoking on their own volition to cater to that audience. The market will adjust to have some smoking places and other non-smoking places. It's a win-win.
PRO: That sounds good in theory. But you're missing the fact that decisions to go to a particular restaurant or bar are usually group decisions, in which the least offensive option for the group wins out. Smokers usually are addicted to nicotine; if given the choice between a smoking place and a non-smoking place, they will voice a very strong preference for the smoking place. Non-smokers may strongly prefer going to a non-smoking place, but they'll voice less objection about going to a smoking place because it's not a chemical addiction for them. This means that even if most individual people prefer a non-smoking place, most groups will choose smoking places, and most bars will permit smoking.

Perhaps I'm too simple minded, or something? I've read all his Cons and his Pros, and I've read all the contributions by way of posted comments, and I've not read what I think is the basic bottom line. I want to know who owns the restaurant. Then after finding that out, I want to ask the owner what he or she wants to do with respect to HIS OR HER RESTAURANT.

I know, someone is going to assert: "But it isn't that simple because smoking can harm those who don't smoke and who don't want to be around smokers." I think it isn't that complicated. In my restaurant, or in my home, or on my patio, someone who would allege harm from someone smoking in those settings has no individual property rights to assert against my choices with respect to my property. It would be different if I had coerced the person alleging harm to be in my home with smokers. But, then the right they assert would be not to be coerced, and I would agree. But, I don't think another person (except perhaps my wife, eh?) has the property right to coerce me to make my home or my restaurant or my patio smokeless. I think that if we say it is acceptable for government to make my restaurant or home or patio smokeless, then we are saying that there are other people who own the property rights to important attributes of my home, my restaurant, or my patio. And, for me, that is not right. It is that simple. Isn't it?

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