5.09.2009

Another Poor Attempt to Justify the WI Smoking Ban

Geesh - an unconvincing argument from a writer at Dane101:
 
The benefits of making bars and restaurants smoke-free – not to mention the rights of patrons to enjoy a smoke-free environment – outweighs the rights of owners to decide on their own the smoking policies.  Various studies have shown that smoking is dangerous, as is second-hand smoke; no one doubts these assumptions. Additionally, we can assume that patrons of bars and restaurants frequent these places not for the smoking but rather for the dinner specials, menu items, and so forth, that are a part of that bar or restaurant’s experience.

Oh really?  Sure, smoking entails health risks.  But can we simply, with a wave of the hand, work from a blanket presumption that patrons of bars and restaurants frequent places without any thought about the ability to smoke in those places?

So if these patrons are seeking to have a pleasant experience, who are we to say that tavern owners have a “right” to essentially poison them?

Well, the tavern owners have a right to make decisions about how to operate their establishments.  They have traditionally had this decision-making power.  And smoking has traditionally fallen within the range of decisions open to a proprietor.  Drawing this as a "right to poison people" is absolutely absurd. 

Sure, one can argue that the patrons don’t necessarily have to enter such an environment; if they wanted to, they could go to a bar whose owner decided, on their own, to make it smoke-free.

Exactly.

But what if a restaurant, instead of allowing smoking, placed a few drops of arsenic in customers’ drinks?  Do they have a “right” to do that?

Again, rather ridiculous.  Putting a few drops of arsenic in a customer's drink has never been permitted by the law.  Smoking has.  For centuries.  Nobody enters a bar thinking they will have arsenic placed in their drinks, but they do, where it is not already banned, anticipate tobacco smoke.

That may be a bit extreme, 

Yes, see above.

but it makes for an interesting point: Owners of taverns don’t have an absolute right to run their businesses how they want, and are subject to government regulation when such actions protect the rights and livelihood of the people. Once the practices of these businesses are seen as harmful to the people who pay for their services, it becomes the state’s responsibility to determine whether or not restrictions can be applied toward these businesses.

I find it highly ironic that the author says government must regulate to protect the "livelihood of the people."  Letting people play indoor soccer in your establishment is potentially harmful to patrons, too.  Like smoking, it's not certain to cause death, but it can harm you.  Should we ban that?  No, we let individuals decide whether or not to partake of an activity that has risk - including risks to other patrons - but so long as all patrons know of and accept the risks, we permit it based on a belief that individuals - patrons, employees, and the establishment owner - can make decisions as adults.

Patrons of restaurants and taverns have a right to enjoy their dining and drinking experiences in relatively good health. With the negative effects of smoking hovering in the air above them, it makes sense to have a law protecting patrons from the hazardous chemicals that could possibly kill them.

Do patrons even have a right to private restaurants and taverns, much less a "right to enjoy their dining and drinking experiences" in such establishments?  Absolutely not.  Nobody is obligated to open a private restaurant or bar to begin with.  These are not services provided by the government.  The law is not the answer to all problems.

The owners’ objections to such a protection are not reason enough to excuse the declining health they’re giving to their customers. The smoking ban is not only justifiable, but commendable--the right thing to do for Wisconsin citizens.

What if their customers don't care about the inflated specter of declining health - or have found that, as evidenced by some notable people, a little second hand smoke on the weekends doesn't prevent them from running marathons or living to a ripe old age?  The owners' objections have a far greater foundation in common law and American principles than a ban.

A statewide smoking ban, even the compromise working through the Wisconsin legislature at present, is no commendable move - it's a repressive, government-knows-better, sledgehammer-when-we-need-a-scalpel response to the problem of smoking.  It's unfortunate that Wisconsin appears to have no faith in its citizens.