Heavy Lifting - thoughts and web finds by an economist
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Thursday, April 29, 2004


70,000,000 vs. 210,000,000 is the same as 7 vs. 21?


Supposedly approximately one fourth of Americans smoke. The other three fourths continue to make life for smokers more difficult. While this seems to be the acceptable trend in the United States today, it should disturb anyone who cherishes their liberties, such as Nicholas Louras. The first public smoking bans were passed in California in the early 1990's. Since then, smoking bans have passed in Boston, New York, Dallas, and in 1,700 other cities and municipalities (Here's a partial list at the state level and a description of the bans in the 20 most populous cities in the U.S.). Arlington passed a ban on smoking in all but bars and restaurants, although the latter must have filters installed to clear the air. Two years ago the city council suggested banning smoking altogether, but restaurant owners expressed considerable concern that their $40,000-$60,000 investment in filtering equipment would be rendered worthless before it had been paid off. The total ban eventually failed.

Last year, the Lexington, KY, city council decided that they had to protect the good people of Kentucky by banning smoking in ALL public places. Last week a judge upheld the ruling.

The loss of civil liberties is often subtle and more often than not occurs when a majority insists that a minority is imposing "externalities" on the majority, thereby raising the need for the government to come to the rescue. I will not argue that second-hand smoke is a negative externality for many, but is it not in the best interest of a firm owner to cater to non-smokers if it is profitable? If enough non-smokers choose to avoid restaurants with smoking areas, the business owner might suffer a loss in profit sufficiently great to encourage voluntarily banning smoking. Some argue (as they did in the Arlington debate) that they have the RIGHT to eat at a restaurant without second-hand smoke wafting around. It is too easy to suggest that people have a bizarre notion of what their RIGHTS (the Bill of Rights, cheap prescription drugs, a removal of all risk in existence, and no second hand smoke - dammit). However, one city council member did point out that there were over 1,500 eateries in Arlington, TX, alone and therefore there was no monopoly on steak or spaghetti in the city.

An outright smoking ban places a one-size-fits-all solution to a problem that does not require such sweeping legislation:
Tony Atwood, a manager at Nicholson's Cigar Bar and an adjacent restaurant, deSha's, in downtown Lexington, said he was disappointed by the ruling, which he said would likely put the cigar bar out of business.

"A smokeless cigar bar is like a vegetarian steakhouse," Atwood said. "It doesn't cut it."

Amen, brother. Saving the public from second hand smoke in a CIGAR BAR seems a bit ridiculous. What will seem even more ridiculous is when 210,000,000 people decide they don't like pink shirts and make the wearing of pink shirts illegal. Our liberties are already encroached upon by the Federal government in innumerable ways. It is a shame that local despots take it upon themselves to save us from ourselves.

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