Jumping on the Ban Wagon


Yet another city wants to ban smoking in bars and restaurants: Pittsburgh.

Jacob Sullum describes the spreading smoke-free fanaticism here.

NEXT: Bumfights = Free Expression?

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  1. Keep your toxic smoke to yourself, tobacco breath.

  2. Sincere question for Libertarians:
    Do you think people should be allowed to shit wherever they want?

  3. Bill,

    The government doesn’t mandate where you can and can’t build bathrooms. If you go into a restroom and find people shitting there, you’ve got no right to be offended since you know that is what it is for. Since it is known that most bars allow smoking, don’t go into one and be offended that there are smokers there.

    The fault in your reasoning is the notion that if the government doesn’t ban smoking, it will be allowed everywhere, like allowing people to shit anywhere. Reality doesn’t back that up – most businesses have banned smoking from their property because it offends a significant percentage of their customers or employees. Some businesses, like bars, cater to those who want to smoke. Others, like restaurants, try to satisfy both with smoking and non-smoking areas. In your private home and car, you do not have to allow others to smoke.

    Sure, there are laws against public urination and defacation, but those apply to truly ‘public’ areas like streets and public parks. Generally it’s only enforced against homeless vagrants, and most likely because they are commiting trespass on someone’s property while doing it. We need no such laws for private spaces because people do fine enough on their own preventing undesired bowel movements. The same logic applies to smoking.

  4. It is a basic libertarian ideal (or so it has seemed to me) that you don’t have the right to harm other people’s property (such as, for example, their bodies) without their permission. Since smoking near another person in such as manner as to cause them to breathe that smoke causes measurable harm to them, it should not be legal. Smokers should only legally be allowed to smoke if everyone in the area has expressly consented to it.

    Anyway, as a California resident I have to say that the ban has been wonderful for us. Clean air, just imagine it. 🙂

  5. Dan:

    Your summary of the “libertarian ideal” is more or less accurate, but is even better expressed this way: My property belongs to me, and is mine to do with as I wish.

    Thus, if I own a house, it’s my decision whether or not someone may smoke there. If I own a car, it’s my decision whether or not someone may smoke there. And if I own a bar or restaurant, it’s my decision whether or not someone may smoke there.

    This whole issue gets clouded because debaters on both sides usually frame it the wrong way, arguing in terms of “my right to smoke” or “my right to not inhale smoke,” etc. When in fact those “rights” are not pertinent here; it’s only the rights of the property owner that matter. Opponents of smoking bans would be wise to remember these rhetorical red herrings and avoid them.

    Now, smoking can certainly be banned in places that truly ARE public — say, a courthouse or city square — without rubbing (most) libertarians the wrong way. But bars and restaurants are private property.

    As for the defecation analogy: In a truly libertarian world, I’d be allowed to determine where people may and may not poop on my property. And that means if I say someone may shit on a stool at my bar, then by all means someone may shit on that stool. It might make my establishment unappealing to most folks, and might leave me open to ridicule, but that’s my problem. At least my rights would be intact.

    All that said… It’s a shame such basic principles of freedom and property rights are now apparently relegated to “libertarian ideals.” Don’t be distracted by the words “shit” and “cigarettes” — the right to my property is a fundamental notion on which the United States was founded.

  6. Brian gets it just right, and I am dispirited by some of the commentary favoring the growing jihad against smoking in bars. No one is forced to patronize any particular bar, or to seek employment there. The establishment’s OWNER has every right to decide what known risks he or she will permit others to consent to on HIS OR HER own property. (For most of my life, I prohibited smoking in my home, as was my perfect right.)

    The issue here is much larger than smoking per se; it is a matter of property rights. The right to decide what will be permitted on one’s own property — when it comes to known risks people are free to reject — is an incident of ownership. The government is assuming this incident of ownership, and to the extent it does so property rights in the U.S. continue to contrat. It is smoking today, and it will be something else tomorrow, once the precedent is set that the state — rather than the persons whose names appear on the deed — may decide what may be consented to on private property.

    One does wish people would conceive this issue at the proper level of generality. Focusing on a despised minority (smokers) and favoring a policy that will diminish the ability of that despised group to engage in an activity many find repulsive, is a great error. It allows emotion and puritan prejudice to trump rational thought and liberty.

  7. If we’re going to stop smoking, we should also stop burning of gasoline. I find automobile exhaust extremely disgusting and it is a proven health hazard. If you drive on public streets, the fumes pass onto my property and cause me harm.

    Essentially, we should pass laws banning everything I personally don’t like.

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