Friday, May 8, 2009

Column for Dane101: Smoking ban justifiable

I write a column for a local blog called Dane101, which focuses on issues pertaining to Dane County, Wisconsin. I will be posting my columns periodically on this blog as well, but do check out their site too. It's chock-full of goodies for Dane County residents. Smoking ban justifiable

It seems, for now, that a compromise has been reached between opposing factions of the statewide smoking ban debate: Such a ban is set to be signed into law sometime next week, but wouldn’t take effect until July 2010.

But is such a ban justifiable? In the past, I’ve been known to take a conservative view of this issue (which may be surprising to some of you reading this). I sided with the rights of tavern owners, whom I believed possessed the sole judgment in deciding whether they’d allow smoking on their premises. The laws of capitalism would dictate whether or not patrons would come into these establishments – in other words, if smoking was such a problem for customers, the “invisible hand” of the market would compel owners to change their policies.

Recently, however, I’ve had some time to reconsider the issue, and came to see that I instead hold the opposite opinion: 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.

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? 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. 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?

That may be a bit extreme, 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.

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. 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.

1 comment:

  1. We are born in a smoke free world and it is just right that we strive to offer our children the same kind of environment. Be involved and help empower everyone by taking part in the yearly WORLD NO TOBACCO DAY which will be on May 31st!