Rookverboden in private ondernemingen vormen een grote bedreiging voor het ondernemerschap. Dat is de stelling die in dit artikel van de Foundation of Economic Education wordt verdedigd.
Even if the EPA is right and ETS is harmful, does this justify government’s telling property owners they can’t allow smoking on their premises? According to smoke-free advocates, the answer is an unadulterated yes. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who favors banning smoking in New York City bars, restaurants, and even outdoor cafes, puts the case this way: “Common sense and common decency demand . . . the need to breathe clean air is more important than the license to pollute it.” (Does this mean we should also ban all other “non-essential” activities that pollute, such as pleasure boating, family vacations, and motorcycle rides?)
Bloomberg is an example of a full-bodied smoke-free advocate. This type wants government to protect workers by banning smoking in all workplaces, including bars. A more “mild” variety of smoke-free advocate only wants to protect children by banning smoking in restaurants, bowling alleys, and other places accessible to kids. Of course, some “milds” hope to extend restaurant bans to bars next.
The chief executive of the American Cancer Society summed up the “full-bodied” view: “A bar is a workplace. You should not be allowed to smoke in a workplace.”
The argument that children should not be exposed to secondhand smoke strikes a chord. After all, even libertarians believe government should protect citizens from harm inflicted by other citizens. If children are being abused when parents drag them into Denny’s or some other restaurant where smoking is allowed, isn’t it within the proper scope of government action to prevent such harm?
But if this is so, why stop at restaurants? Under this reasoning, smoking should be banned anywhere children are present, including private vehicles and homes. The smoke that kids of smokers breathe in a restaurant is negligible compared with what they get at home or on a drive. If ETS amounts to abuse, what possible difference does it make where the abuse takes place?
The war over smoking bans reached low ebb when the opposing sides started funding academic studies to argue that the bans are having either a positive or negative effect on the restaurant industry in smoke-free communities. Some restaurant trade groups sponsored studies showing a decrease in restaurant business after the smoking bans went into effect. But these studies have been largely dismissed as based on “anecdotal information” or “funded by the Tobacco industry.”
Meanwhile, on the antismoking side, several studies (largely undertaken by smoke-free advocates, but never mind) have shown smoking bans have not harmed the restaurant industry. Some have even shown an increase in overall restaurant business. These econometric studies have examined several communities, including Fort Wayne, Indiana; Boulder, Colorado; Dane County, Wisconsin; New York City; Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Flagstaff, Arizona; West Lake Hills, Texas; and several locations in California and Massachusetts. Their findings are based on restaurant sales-tax receipts or other aggregate data.
Does this mean economics supports the smoking bans? Not at all. As noted, all the studies supporting smoking bans are based on aggregated restaurant sales data; they look at the “restaurant industry” in the smoke-free communities. They largely ignore what might be happening under the surface to individual businesses and completely ignore the extent to which the bans further erode the essential concept of private property rights—the very linchpin of wealth creation in a market economy.