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If, on the other hand, you refuse to enter any enclosed space where smoking is allowed, you send a signal to the airlines, the restaurateurs, and the employers. If there are enough people like you, some businesses will ban smoking, while others will segregate smokers from nonsmokers. That is why businesses restrict smoking even in the absence of government-imposed regulations. But in the free market, unlike in some cost-benefit analyses, smokers count too. That is why some businesses continue to permit smoking.
So the effects of secondhand smoke are taken into account by all the individuals involved. Furthermore, this is true whether secondhand smoke is a health hazard or simply an annoyance. I am not convinced by the evidence that secondhand smoke kills, but quite a few people are. Fine. Let them consider that risk, and let them tell other people about it. Such fears will affect the market signals that businesses receive, since prospective customers and employees will seek to avoid secondhand smoke in greater numbers and with greater determination. But the ultimate decision should still be left to private property owners.
I realize that this approach may sound cold-hearted. After all, people who want to avoid secondhand smoke don't always have a wide range of choices, especially when it comes to employment. But that objection would apply to any aspect of the employment contract, including wages, benefits, hours, and various aspects of the working environment. Should these and other employment conditions be left to voluntary agreements between individuals, or should they be dictated by the government? If we allow government to second-guess private contracts, there is no assurance that we will always like the results.
Similarly, we all have a stake in protecting private property rights. It is just as wrong for the government to tell a restaurateur that he may not allow smoking in his establishment as it would be for the government to tell you that you may not allow smoking in your dining room. (Or, for that matter, to insist that you must allow smoking.)
Finally, we all lose something if we allow the government to penalize people for unfashionable habits. Personally, I do not perceive enough benefit in smoking to make it worth the risk. That's why I don't smoke. But I'm sure that a lot of people, including many smokers, would have difficulty understanding why I enjoy bungee-jumping. I do not ask that other people share my tastes and preferences, only that they tolerate them. And toleration is another casualty of the crusade against smoking.
Individual rights, of course, do not figure in the cost-benefit analyses of smoking. As with many other important things, their value is hard to measure in dollars and cents. More to the point, these analyses take a collectivist approach; their purpose, as the EPA puts it, is to help "identify those government actions which leave society as a whole better off." It's not surprising that the rights of individuals do not play a role in these calculations. Fortunately, the EPA concedes that "cost-benefit analysis does not by itself . . . provide definitive answers." It has to be "weighed with other policy considerations." The question is, how much does freedom weigh?