no third solution

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Smoking: Still Healthier Than Fascism

May 9th, 2008

Michigan is inching forward with its ban on smoking.

If second-hand smoke is in fact a legitimate health risk (I do not believe that it is) to non-smokers, imagine how bad smoking is to the smokers! It’s a freaking epidemic! The real public health issue is “smoking,” not “second-hand smoke.” Nobody should ever be allowed to smoke.

But this choice isn’t yet outlawed, because somewhere deep down inside, most people understand that it is a matter of individual liberty, which most people tacitly recognize. And if you are free to decide whether you want to inhale burning tobacco smoke in the privacy of your own home, you are equally free to decide whether you want to inhale someone else’s tobacco smoke on someone else’s property.

Besides, an increasing number of establishments (most professional buildings, offices, malls, retail spaces, and fast-food restaurants) have gone smoke free. They have done this, at least in part, to gain an advantage over their competition, by offering a different customer experience that some people prefer.

[N]early 5,100 Michigan restaurants and taverns — about one of three — prohibit smoking, an increase of 130% in the last 10 years. He said owners made the switch to accommodate customers.

At the 50-year-old Clawson Steak House, co-owner Jim Alex said his restaurant has changed dramatically in the last two decades, “and I didn’t know we needed a bill to finish this out.”

He said when the steak house first set aside five no-smoking tables in 1987, “it was hard to fill them.” By 2006, the entire 200-seat dining room had become smoke-free, and customers only could light up in the bar.

Now, he said, the 10 booths in the smoking area go begging for customers.

And that’s a key takeaway! Many businesses have gone completely smoke-free in the last 10 or 20 years. The market (or what’s left of one) is delivering smoke free establishments, many places even tout their smoke free-ness as a competitive advantage. If the law forces every restaurant and bar to operate in the same manner and by the same rules, the competitive edge, the differentiation begins to fade.

Case in point: “The Senate ban includes Detroit’s three casinos, plus bingo halls and cigar bars.”

If you own a cigar bar, you’re world is about to be turned upside down. You’ll probably go out of business, and your creditors will take your house and your savings. Your creditors don’t care that your government just bankrupted you by legislation. I imagine that the Casinos won’t be going down without a fight.

Get ready for a shload of money to be wasted lobbying the legislature to craft exceptions to this all-encompassing rule, which would essentially stipulate that the rights of certain proprietors are more inviolate than the rights of others, and that the public health concern for the employees and patrons at these establishments is not really anything with which to be concerned.

A FreePress poll asks, “Should Michigan ban smoking in public places?” and a whopping 70% say “yes.”

Framed improperly, of course, there might be a case. But since all of the properties subject to the ban are private properties, not public places, we can disregard the idea that if a government which respects property rights (which is to say, none of them) would only be permitted to control the public’s behavior on public property: parks, roads, sidewalks. Some people think that smokers should just step outside, but “outside” really is public property!

Look: smoking will always be healthier than fascism, and as usual:

[A]n improper application of the term “public” exacerbates the debate. What anti-smoking advocates want is to rid private places of smokers. When we begin to recognize that your restaurant is your property, we will be able to table the issue permanently. But as long as people continue to delude themselves into thinking that your restaurant is “public” property, smoking, trans fats, nude dancing, beer sales on Sunday mornings, etc., will continue to be banned.


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no third solution

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