Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Smoking ban and market freedoms

In this comment, BondWoman asks:
What I cannot understand is why people get so exercised about the smoking ban as an infringement of "civil liberties". That seems to me to be a complete abuse of the term civil liberties which hardly does justice to the work done by people such as Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela as *real* campaigns for *really meaningful* liberties. The right to pollute the atmosphere (whether in public or private) with loathsome fumes seems to me, whether you support the case or not, to be on a wholly different scale.
Well, I think I've covered it fairly well before, but summary:
I don't smoke, have never smoked, and don't plan to start anytime soon. But I have friends that do. I also have friends with heavy asthma who need smoke free environments. If you encourage pubs to ban it through [tax] breaks, etc, then many will, but due to the demand that will exist for premises that allow smoking, not all will. So my smoking friends can go where they wish, my asthmatic friends can go out safely, and I, as a rational actor within a functioning market*, can make my own choices.
I work in a small town in the back end of beyond. There are already pubs, with no incentives other than the market, that have switched to being non-smoking. Give them some tax incentives, make them advertise their smoking policy, make them ensure ventilation for staff benefit?

Prod the market in the right direction, let rational economic behaviour do the rest. It's not hard. It's just not a headline grabbing "vote winner". Oh, it's a "stealth tax on business" as well. FFS.


Anonymous said...

A lot of rubbish was and is said, but fact is, that toxic indoor pollution and safety-laws are no market-things.

Anonymous said...

Another thing that the market cannot fix it, is that big tobacco creates fears, fake studies, so nearly no business go smoke-free by self-regulation.

Killing others is no thing the market should decide.

MatGB said...

Who said it shouldn't be regulated at all? Me? Maybe you should read it again.

I want proper ventilation and an encouragement system to push businesses in favour of banning it of their own volition, the market case is strong anyway.

But there should always be a small number of venues that allow smoking, in order that smokers can themselves be served.

Not all, not the majority, just a small number.

I wish people would actually pay attention; it's not "everwhere allows smoking" / "ban smoking". That's a stupid black/white choice worthy of Dubbya at his worse.

Katy Newton said...

I gave up smoking in 2003 and I do prefer a smoke-free workplace. I won't be sorry to see the back of smoking in the pub either. But I never had a problem with a small room being set aside for smokers to smoke in, and in the pub polite smokers will go and smoke outside or at the bar if they're with non-smokers anyway.

Anonymous said...

I agree that lumping in a smoking ban with the general assault on civil liberties does a disservice to the real civil liberty issues.

It's all very well to say non-smokers can go elsewhere however those who work in smoking establishments generally cannot.

As a smoker I do not believe a smoking ban unfairly restrain mine or anyone's freedom to smoke, any more than I would consider the fact that I cannot tattoo my message on your forehead to be a limit on my freedom of speech. Liberty doesn't include the right to poison people, basically.

MatGB said...

Which is, essentially, why I'm loath to involve it in any broad "what NuLab have done wrong" campaign.

Regarding the workers, two responses, one is to regulate to ensure decent regulation, second is a) passive smoking link unproven, b) what if they themselves smoke, the staff at my favourite cafe all do c) essential market choice, why not move jobs to a pub that disallows it?

I truly believe the workers rights thing to be a horrible smokescreen in favour of "making us all healthier" nannying.

But, it's done; it's not something I myself am going to worry about too much; I don't smoke.

Anonymous said...


Although I don't agree with them, I think that such things as you mention are valid lines of argument against the ban. I just don't think it's a civil liberty issue. Unlike, say, banning smoking completely.

After all, "give me a smoking zone or give me death" doesn't really have the right ring to it. :-)

(What if the workers also smoke also occurred to me, by the way - but then what if they later want to quit? Must they also quit their job? It's far from a given that another job will be available.)