We May Have Lost in L.A., New York, and Boston, but We Won (Barely) in Cave City!

|

The Bluegrass Institute, a free market think tank in Kentucky, is celebrating the defeat of a smoking ban in Cave City (population: 1,920). Mayor Bob Hunt, who cast the tie-breaking vote, explained: "I voted not to pass a ban because I don't feel like government should tell private business owners who help support the city with their taxes what to do about smoking. I respect those people who see this as strictly a health issue, but I also respect the man who has invested in his business and is trying to make a living." The Bluegrass Institute calls Hunt "courageous" for acting on this increasingly rare sentiment, an accurate but depressing commentary in what is meant to be an uplifting message.

[Thanks to Geoff Segal for the tip.]

Advertisement

NEXT: Child's Play

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. We did something right for a change here in the Bluegrass State. Er, yee haw.

  2. Yay! Well at least now I know that if Chicago does pass a ban I can move to Kentucky instead of my previously chosen destination, Mexico.

  3. I almost feel like moving back to KY.

  4. Right, but in Kentucky, if you write a short story about zombies attacking a high school, you get arrested for planning and inciting terrorism.

  5. Cave City ain’t a bad place. Not only are you close to Mammoth Cave, but you can also stay at the Wigwam Village, where your room for the night is a giant concrete teepee. As to why they called it Wigwam Village instead of TeePee Village, well, my home state ain’t perfect.

    –Keith

  6. Keith: wigwam and teePee? i’d say they’re two tents. ha ha. ba dum bum

  7. Yeah…a victory, for who? The business owners? I’m a business owner, and let me tell you, I have to tell the insurance company which of my employees smoke when I do the annual group health policy, and I pay more as a result. Furthermore, my rates are higher anyway because I’m also helping subsidize the chainsmokers at other companies, including my competitors.

    Now, before some bright libertarian genius opines that it’s my right not to offer health insurance to save money, yeah, it is, but the lower quality of the employee who will accept the salary without the health coverage prevalent in the marketplace will put me at an economic disadvantage, so that’s really no “choice”, is it? Competition requires I offer it, so I do, and the encouragement of smoking helps keep my premiums high.

    BTW, I go out on Thursdays and sometimes on a Saturday with friends to the local dive bar, and I certainly haven’t noticed a drop in business or drunken foolery since the state enacted the ban last year (MA).

  8. cdunlea,

    ever thought about not hiring smokers?

  9. I have noticed that communities are generally happy with their bans — including many of the reluctant business owners.

  10. ever thought about not hiring smokers?

    cdunlea doesn’t want to invite a ADA lawsuit.

  11. “I have long been convinced that the idea of liberty is abhorrent to most human beings. What they want is security, not freedom. Thus it seldom causes any public indignation when an enterprising tyrant claps down on one of his enemies. To most men it seems a natural proceeding.”
    H.L. Mencken

  12. “I have noticed that communities are generally happy with their bans — including many of the reluctant business owners.”

    As was discussed here ad nauseum in the past, we’re all pretty damn happy with the ban on smoking on airlines, and those of us in towns with no-smoking in restaurants love it too. Neither one would have happened even by now if we’d have left it up to the Magic Of The Market.

  13. As was discussed here ad nauseum in the past, we’re all pretty damn happy with the ban on smoking on airlines, and those of us in towns with no-smoking in restaurants love it too.

    Speak for your own damn self.

  14. As was discussed here ad nauseum in the past, we’re all pretty damn happy with the ban on smoking on airlines, and those of us in towns with no-smoking in restaurants love it too. Neither one would have happened even by now if we’d have left it up to the Magic Of The Market.

    If I recall correctly, restaurants had already been, at the very least, limiting smoking to smoking sections. Seems the ‘magic of the market’ worked out alright there. The airlines wouldn’t have banned smoking? I don’t know about that (I honestly don’t, it was before my time) but it seems once it became common knowledge that smoke was bad for you those who did not wish to fly in smoke would have been accomodated, but then again, I may just be a primitive, in awe of the ‘Magic Of The Market.’

  15. Smoking sections were usually mandated by law, too.

  16. “If I recall correctly, restaurants had already been, at the very least, limiting smoking to smoking sections. Seems the ‘magic of the market’ worked out alright there.”

    Uh, no, Hell no. A non-smoking section in a restaurant is like a non-peeing section in a pool. That’s not evidence of the market ‘working’.

    “The airlines wouldn’t have banned smoking?”

    They didn’t until the government started getting involved, at the urging of flight attendants.

  17. “we’re all pretty damn happy with the ban on smoking on airlines and those of us in towns with no-smoking in restaurants love it too.”

    Well, so? I might be happy if every vegan restaurant were forced to serve burgers. And all of my pals in the meat-eating majority might “love it too.”

    That says nothing as to whether the government should be able to use its monopoly on violence to force business owners to cater to what I want.

    See, some people want something else. And it is up to the business owner to decide which market to serve.

  18. “See, some people want something else. And it is up to the business owner to decide which market to serve.”

    When ‘most people’ wanted to eat without breathing smoke, and yet hardly any restaurants banned smoking (1980s timeframe, for instance), pragmatists start to look at this as a case of ‘market failure’.

    Yeah, to true free-marketeers it’s not a ‘failure’, but try selling that to people who just want to get a bite to eat without smelling like an ashtray.

    This is the hurdle you must overcome if you EVER expect to defeat another ban ANYWHERE. People LIKE the ban in restaurants, and see it as a case of government doing GOOD. Telling them how stupid they were for voting them in (overwhelmingly in most cases) is not a winning strategy for you.

  19. M1EK:

    If we are going to define market failure as the market not providing me with exactly the dining experience I want, can we define government failure the same way?

  20. Jason,

    “If we are going to define market failure as the market not providing me with exactly the dining experience I want, ”

    Thanks, Rush.

    80% of people (let’s say) wanted to eat in non-smoking restaurants. Nearly zero restraurants were non-smoking. Most people (WHO VOTE) would view this as a market failure, even though in the orthodox sense it is not. (Numbers above provided by my own observation of South Florida circa 1990 – long prior to local and eventual state restaurant smoking bans).

    If you ever want to win one of these ban elections, understanding this key point is essential. Thankfully for people like me who want the bans to win, most of y’all continue pounding the stupid drum instead.

  21. “Telling them how stupid they were for voting them in (overwhelmingly in most cases) is not a winning strategy for you.”

    M1EK I never said they were “stupid.” Self-serving, arrogant and dangerous, yes. Stupid? Not at all. Rent-seeking makes perfect sense, after all. And it is natural, I suppose, for people to force their ideas on others.

    As for winning stategies, I have given this one up for lost. But I am a free-market sort of fellow, so I am accustomed to losing. Sad but true. The smoking ban is just another example of government-creep. It is not the most outrageous example. But it is still wrong, your populist ramblings notwithstanding. Lots of popular things are wrong. Maybe you can think of a few.

    So rest easy. I am sure you will get your ban. Just don’t embarass yourself by buying the argument that it’s about “public health.” You don’t like smoke and have the political clout to force your preferences on others. I suspect you are fine with that. Congratulations.

  22. SM,

    And that is why you’ll never win – we waited for decades for the market to provide a non-trivial number of non-smoking restaurants; and it didn’t. Your proposed solution is that we wait a few MORE decades. No thanks.

    A pragmatist would say this is now a case that might merit a more in-depth analysis than “there must be no demand for them”, but you hard-core randroids just can’t get past it.

  23. I have noticed that communities are generally happy with their bans — including many of the reluctant business owners.

    Great! Then we can rescind the ban now, right? I mean if they’ve seen the light and are happy with it, no need to use government to coerce the “correct” behavior out of them anymore, is there?

  24. “Great! Then we can rescind the ban now, right? I mean if they’ve seen the light and are happy with it, no need to use government to coerce the “correct” behavior out of them anymore, is there?”

    Have you ever bothered to read up on the “rush to the bottom”?

  25. but you hard-core randroids just can’t get past it.

    More astute commentary of the kind we have come to expect from M1EK!

    So, is that all you can do? Just throw around your little pet phrases like “liars for hire” and “randroids” while insulting everyone that disagrees with you? Are you trying to use bluster to cover a general lack of thoughtfulness? Is it insecurity? Perhaps it?s just plain old juvenile behavior which could explain the tantrum throwing about the market not providing exactly what you want… Either way you’re certainly not going to persuade anyone by recycling the same tired clich?d insults in every post.

  26. we are just talking past each other now.

    for one group of individuals, the very idea of coercion is abhorrent. for the other, it isn’t. no amount of argument is going overcome the fact that we have different baseline assumptions.

    unfortunately for those of us who find coercion to be inherently wrong, we are in the minority.

  27. M1EK:

    Yeah, Rush. That’s me.

    Anyway … I can only hope that you are on the ass end of a popular regulation some time. As long as a bunch of people want it, it must be great, I suppose. I bet a bunch of people would love it if fat people were forbidden from flying, for example. They drive up the cost of travel, they use more than their allotted space, and they tend to smell bad. Must be a market failure, because I sat next to a HUGE woman on my last flight to Chicago. Lets get regulations going on this very popular measure.

    The point we are making around here is that you are using a tank to swat a fly when you use the state to mandate smoking rules for everyone. And, yes, it is just an inappropriate use of force.

    You are right about the practicality of winning though. You have to have the popular position to win votes. Thank you for sharing such wisdom with us.

  28. for one group of individuals, the very idea of coercion is abhorrent. for the other, it isn’t. no amount of argument is going overcome the fact that we have different baseline assumptions.

    This is worth repeating. It’s a rather sad fact that so many people seem to think it’s ok to force their whims upon others under threat of law.

  29. Yeah mediageek I agree. And the 1% or us who think it’s not ok are significantly outnumbered.

  30. TWBA: I almost feel like moving back to KY.

    I’m definitely going back to KY. Toothpaste is terrible as a lubricant.

    Thank you, I’m here all week …

  31. “I’m definitely going back to KY. Toothpaste is terrible as a lubricant.”

    Yeah, we came up with the jelly because we needed to save the paste for when we brush our tooth.

    Thank you … Thank you …

  32. Brian,

    “explain the tantrum throwing about the market not providing exactly what you want”

    This is why you get no civility. Despite being told again and again that what I refer to is the market not providing even 1% nonsmoking restaurants to the 80% of the population that wanted nonsmoking restaurants, you continue to rephrase this as “I WANT I WANT I WANT”.

    Rational people wouldn’t do that. They might say “I wonder WHY the market hasn’t provided more non-smoking restaurants”, but it’s the Rush Limbaughs of the world who move straight to calling their opponents crybabies and whatnot.

    It’s no wonder you idiots can’t win.

  33. Minneapolis, Bloomington, & Duluth, 3 of the 4 biggest cities in MN are cosidering revising their smoking bans because of the 25 to 40% loss in business their bars & restaurants have suffered. Before the ban we had over 125 smoke free establishments voluntarily in just the Twin Cities.
    If you want to ban smoking then outlaw the sale of tobacco and forego the INCOME your goverments so rely on. They just raised the tax on tobacco as much as 80% here while baning the use. Kinda short sighted if you ask me.

  34. Jason,

    “As long as a bunch of people want it, it must be great, I suppose.”

    That’s the Rushism again.

    A rational person would look at a market failing to provide a non-trivial number of non-smoking restaurants to a populace that clearly WANTED non-smoking restaurants, and say “hmmm, something’s not right” instead of resorting to a second-grade view of capitalism.

    The last time this stuff came up, Julian S at least had some good ideas from the anti-ban side. Y’all, on the other hand, basically sum up to “well, if the market didn’t provide any non-smoking restaurants, there obviously wasn’t any demand” which, again, is a completely useless way to look at it in the actual real world in which you are attempting to win these campaigns.

  35. Barb,

    “Minneapolis, Bloomington, & Duluth, 3 of the 4 biggest cities in MN are cosidering revising their smoking bans because of the 25 to 40% loss in business their bars & restaurants have suffered.”

    Cite, please.

  36. Never mind – found enough info on Minneapolis. Big surprise; it’s a border issue (bars in smoking ban area but near area with no ban fighting to overturn ban).

    Curious how many of you would also like us to get rid of fire codes, while we’re at it.

  37. This exchange highlights something I’ve noticed over the years; the government is increasingly viewed as a legitimate device/player in the market.

    In 1994, I spent 9 months of my life responding to an anti-dumping investigation filed by the last pineapple canner in Hawaii against producers in Thailand. It is a labor-intensive biz and the Hawaiian producer was losing money operating there (DUH!). I am sure they were quite aware that the largest exporter from Thailand was actually their main American competitor. That fact did not cause the U.S. government to question the merit of the investigation either.

    In 1996, a friend in the FAA told me many airlines were BEGGING them to ban carry-on luggage. Airlines know its dangerous situation but they want a government ban so they don’t look like the bad guy and are protected from competitors who may not voluntarily eliminate the cabin baggage allowance.

    Now that I am a homeowner, I am appalled at the control local government exerts over private home and business owners ON BEHALF AND THE BEHEST of neighborhood associations and other property owners.

    Government creep reminds me of a vampire. It is a parasite but one that usually has to be invited in by someone first.

    I don’t know what the answer is. How can you have limited democratic government that protects individual rights when the greater public has majoritarian tendencies?

    BTW, Barb. The sprinkler system in my condo is already part of current local building code.

  38. We did something right for a change here in the Bluegrass State. Er, yee haw.

    Don’t get too cocky. You still have that execrable smiley face on your license plate. 🙂

  39. Jason:

    Ahh. That is some insidious government fund raising shit. For those who haven’t seen it, the KY license plate has a rainbow bright palette, with a smiley face sun right in the middle. The gimmick is that they charge you $25.00 per year for any other plate so you won’t feel gay.

    M1EK:

    “Y’all, on the other hand, basically sum up to “well, if the market didn’t provide any non-smoking restaurants, there obviously wasn’t any demand” which, again, is a completely useless way to look at it in the actual real world in which you are attempting to win these campaigns.”

    Reading my last post, I don’t think that is what I said. What I said is that using regulation to force the issue is heavy handed. If we grant that there was significant misperception on the part of restaurant owners as to what their customers want, well, that sounds like an information problem that is theirs to solve. No one is saying that the market is omniscient. The government sure as hell isn’t either, though.

    What is being said is that it is unclear how the government has superior information about consumer preferences. Even an ideal government can only poll, and preferences expressed through actions with money on the line generally trump polls with nothing on the line.

    By the way, you can stop with the sanctimonious lecturing on how libertarians need to think about the popular will question. I daresay that few other constituencies think about it as much. We lose on tobacco regulation for the same reason we lose on the drug war. Demonization of the stuff, a bunch of bullshit statistics, and lack of popular support for the idea that people should be able to do what they want.

    I am curious as to where that 80% number came from, by the way. I would like to see a reference for 80% of the population wanting 100% smoke free restaurants, devoid of even a smoking section. Extrapolating from my own experience, I don’t buy that the small smoking section or smoking at the bar is that terrible to 80% of the population. I have asthma and am allergic to cigarette smoke. My wife’s hair is long and holds cigarette stench like nobody’s business. I hate the stuff. We eat out every weekend 4 meals. We have no regional smoking ban. I have not had to use Primatene in a restaurant non smoking section ever, and my wife’s hair doesn’t smell like smoke ever unless we go to a bar or sit in the smoking section.

  40. “Demonization of the stuff, a bunch of bullshit statistics, and lack of popular support for the idea that people should be able to do what they want.”

    DATELINE 1989: SOUTH FLORIDA

    80% of people ‘want’ to eat at a variety of non-smoking restaurants, and the market supplies them a couple of fast-food joints and a health-food store. Every other restaurant has a ‘smoking section’ which is a friggin’ joke.

    See the problem yet?

  41. Was that the TV show Dateline from 1989?

  42. M1EK:

    I can’t find any references. If you could help me out, I’d appreciate it.

  43. “Great! Then we can rescind the ban now, right? I mean if they’ve seen the light and are happy with it, no need to use government to coerce the “correct” behavior out of them anymore, is there?”

    Actually, Brian, you may be on to something.

    If the Civil Right Act was struck down, and places of public accommodation were allowed to discriminate on the basis of race, how many, even in Dixie, would do so? 1%? 3%?

    As with discriminating against black customers, allowing smoking was the old normal, and the passage of the regulations helped to create a new normal. Within a decade, I’m betting that the same thing would happen with allowing some of your customers to smoke up your dining room, where the rest of your customers are trying to enjoy their meals.

  44. M1EK

    Do you support any sort of adjustment to the ban that would allow for exemptions so the 20 percent who do not support the ban would have a place to go?

    Forget that I think the number is a lot higher than 20 percent. Don’t 25 percent of people still smoke? And I know quite a few non-smokers who do not support the any sort of ban. The numbers go even higher when you allow for strict smoking/non-smoking sections.

    But like I said, forget that. Are you concerned at all that a full-blown ban would alienate at least one in five diners? You seem something of a populist. So I thought that might bother you. So I figured you might have thought through some solutions that might ameliorate the “regulatory failure.”

    But probably not.

    And for the record, I never argued that “well, if the market didn’t provide any non-smoking restaurants, there obviously wasn’t any demand.”

  45. SM,

    “M1EK

    Do you support any sort of adjustment to the ban that would allow for exemptions so the 20 percent who do not support the ban would have a place to go?”

    First of all, the 80% figure was for nonsmokers. Smokers who don’t want to eat while other people smoke make up another substantial minority.

    Second, once you (collective) stop with the “you’re just trying to legislate your personal choice” and start with this stuff, progress can actually be made. Julian S came up with a couple of ideas short of a ban which would ‘goose’ the market (which even he, I think, acknowledged wasn’t doing a good job of responding to user preference).

    The key here is how to avoid the race to the bottom. On many other issues, we just legislate the new bottom (fire codes, etc). I’m certainly willing to discuss a strategy which would get us somewhere much higher than 0%, even if not all the way to 80.

    But anybody whose answer is to resort to Rushisms about how I just want to make everybody cater to my whims isn’t worth the trouble.

    Jason,

    My DATELINE 1989 was a bad rhetorical device. The 80% is from my own anectdotal recollection.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.