Supporters of Smoking Bans Are Ignoring a Crucial Danger
By Don Watkins (Santa Monica Daily Press, March 23, 2009)
Referring to my March 12 op-ed criticizing a proposal to further restrict smoking in Newport Beach, Jack Neworth accuses me of ignoring “the reason for smoking bans--the dangers of second-hand smoke.” But it’s the supporters of smoking bans who are ignoring a crucial danger: the danger of allowing the government to violate private property rights.
Is second-hand smoke obnoxious? Some of us think so--just as some of us think certain kinds of music are obnoxious. Can second-hand smoke pose certain risks? Perhaps--just as certain foods may put us in danger of developing various diseases. Property rights protect our ability to make these kinds of assessments, and thereby pursue our health and happiness. If you abhor second-hand smoke, for instance, you can refuse to allow smokers into your home or your restaurant.
But by the same token, you must recognize others’ right to allow smoking in their home or restaurant. That means if the owner of your favorite diner wants to let customers light up, you can voluntarily choose to tolerate the smoke, try to persuade the owner to change his policy, or take your business elsewhere--but you can’t force him to comply with your views. To be free to act on your own judgment, you have to leave others free to act on theirs.
While supporters of smoking bans may cheer today, they should keep in mind: there is no telling what voluntary activity a government that rejects property rights will ban tomorrow.