no third solution

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More Thoughts on Michigan’s Smoking Ban

May 12th, 2008

More thoughts on the impending smoking ban in Michigan:

Among other arguments I’m tired of hearing:

Us non-smokers shouldn’t have to breathe second-hand smoke when we go out to dinner.

And you don’t. Just go to one of the many restaurants that is completely smoke free. Try Bagger Dave’s, in Berkley and coming soon to Ann Arbor. The burgers are amazing, and they have a full bar with some TVs for watching the game. What “us non-smokers” are really saying, is that they want to control how you manage your own property, they are trying to exercise a property right where none exists.

You have to consider the risk posed to the employees at these establishments. It’s not fair to force them to breathe second-hand smoke.

It is obvious that the people making this particular argument have never worked in the food-service industry. Nearly everyone who works in the food-service industry smokes. I’m not sure why this is the case, but it seems to be the case just about everywhere. No such smoking ban will protect them from the dangers to which they routinely expose themselves, behind the dumpster before their shift begins, and in the car on the way home.

Furthermore, the fact that the restaurant permitted smoking was (or should have been) readily apparent to any prospective employee, who upon learning of that condition, was free to seek employment elsewhere. Just as the diner is free to choose where he wants to eat, and is not forced to eat at any particular restaurant, the employee is free to seek employment elsewhere, and is not forced to work at an particular establishment. In a free market (which we don’t really have) a premium wage might be commanded by those employees working in the less-desirable environment, if one exists.

It puts all the restaurants on a level playing field.”

No, it doesn’t. This argument is economic nonsense.

They’re arguably on a level playing field right now, where each establishment can decide whether it wants to tolerate smoking. Some establishments like Bagger Dave’s have a small competitive edge, because they are smoke free. The parking lot at Bagger Dave’s is usually packed. Other establishments have a niche advantage because they permit smoking. There used to be a coffee house in Royal Oak called “Brazil” which, unlike the chain stores, allowed smoking. I’m not sure if it’s still around, but it was always full of beatniks and hippies. A state-wide ban on smoking in private, commercial property (it is not public property) would effectively destroy both sorts of competitive advantage.

Sometimes people say things like, “it’s about smokers’ rights” or “what about my right to not breathe second-hand smoke?

These people are all missing the point entirely. The issue at hand is not “smokers’ rights,” or “non-smokers’ rights.” It never was. The issue at hand is the property right of the property owner, since no other person (smoker or non-) can have a legitimate right in that regard!

no third solution

Blogging about liberty, anarchy, economics and politics