Smoke 'Em While You Can


This week Germany's Federal Constitutional Court overturned two state smoking bans, in Berlin and Baden-Württemberg, ruling that they unfairly discriminated against small bars by allowing larger establishments to create separately ventilated smoking rooms. Although patrons of smaller bars will be allowed to smoke for a while, this decision ultimately will aid the anti-smoking cause, since both states are likely to remedy the constitutional defect in their laws by eliminating the exception, as opposed to lifting the smoking bans. Special smoking rooms do not conflict with the avowed motivation of these bans, protecting employees from secondhand smoke, but they do conflict with the goal of protecting smokers from themselves by encouraging them to quit.

In recent years, American anti-smoking activists and public health officials have started to openly embrace the latter goal, instead of pretending their only concern is innocent bystanders. Regarding a recent proposal to tighten restrictions on smoking in San Francisco, for example, the director of the city's Department of Public Health said, "Tobacco remains the No. 1 cause of preventable death in the U.S.—period. It's government's responsibility to protect people from obvious risks." Another handy rationale: The very sight of smokers is a public health hazard, since they encourage other people (especially the children!) to follow their bad example. The outdoor smoking ban that took effect last week in Loma Linda, California, like a similar ban in Calabasas, is intended to "reduce the potential for children to associate smoking and tobacco with a healthy lifestyle" and "affirm and promote the family-friendly atmosphere of the City's public places."