On July 1st, the city in which I live will enact an ordinance banning smoking
in resturants, bars, taverns, all sports arenas (including bowling alleys) and other public buildings. Many cities/states have already gone this route, and we will soon join them.
This ticks me off. Part of it stems from my past experiences: my senior year, while I was on "student senate", a motion was brought forward to disallow smoking in the one building on campus that was not smoke-free. I believed then--and believe now--that the school made a horrible error in passing it (we, the opposition in the senate, lost by one vote). However, after talking this over with a friend last night, I must grudgingly admit that the city has some good reasons and that there are substantial differences between the two cases that make one okay (well, grudgingly okay) and one not.
I'll admit that what frustrates me the most (specifically with the campus ordinance) was that most arguments for banning were of the "I don't smoke" or "I hate smoke" variety. But these are not good arguments, especially when one has the choice of entering a smokey bar or moving on to another, smoke-free, place. My friend makes two counter-arguments which I find interesting (notice that I focus on bars in particular, for I think they are of a different breed than the others):
1) people are "rationally bounded" (that is, they have a "tendency to do stupid things"). Some people will still go to a bar even though they don't like smoke. Not only should we save these people from themselves (my words) but, because of state health care (Medicaid, etc.) costs of smoking, it will save society money in the end.
2) Ideally there would be bars that allow smoking and bars that don't allow smoking to allow for a choice. However, it's just not that way--the market is functioning at a sub-optimal level. Thus, something should be done.
I find these arguments interesting and somewhat compelling. In a way, I'm reminded of Utah's utterly ridiculous liquor laws, though I think (again) that those are of a different beast. So, my questions to y'all:
Does government have a duty to protect its citizens from themselves? How does that work in 'victimless crimes' (i.e. responsible, but heavy, drinking) with reference to an individual's freedoms? If we live in a sub-optimal system (whatever it may be) that causes a problem, should we try to fix the problem or the system itself? (That is, should we treat the symptom or the disease?)
These questions can also be asked by assuming "the Church" instead of "government".
Relatedly, my friend and I thought that a "smoking license" would be an interesting way to go--like a liquor license, but for allowing smoking in a bar. Thoughts of something like this, specifically from the more legally minded out there?