Up front I want to admit my bias. I come from a family of smokers. Some are casual-after-dinner-watching-the-news-with-a-glass-of-wine kind of smokers. And others are soot-embedded-into-the-felt-roof-above-the-driver’s-side-window-of-their-Ford-Dynasty kind of smokers. Because of this rich and fascinating culture from whence I was spawned, I have an acute sense of the unjust when it comes to smokers’ rights.
I am aware that smoking is bad for your health. I do not intend to argue otherwise. I do think that the government control over bars and restaurants smoking establishment status is unfair. Also, given what we now know about the effects of second-hand smoking, I do not suggest we go back to the days when restaurants were divided into smoking and non-smoking sections. I’m addressing establishments in their entirety.
Put simply, I think bar and restaurant owners should have the right to choose if they want to be a smoking establishment or not. Lets take Illinois for example. In 2008 the Smoke Free Illinois Act was enacted. This banned smoking in all enclosed work spaces. Casinos, bars, and restaurants are now smoke free statewide. How can that be fair? Shouldn’t the owner have the right to choose? If a restaurant has to apply for a liquor license, why couldn’t the government implement a smoking license?
I see no difference between the government dictating smoking/non-smoking status and them deciding what type of food is to be served– “I’m not in the mood for a smoking restaurant tonight. Let’s go someplace else.” If smoking restaurants fail because no one wants to go there, then let them fail. Both patrons and owners should have the freedom of choice. The smoking laws infringe on the concept of free enterprise.
To take the argument a step further– if the government is really trying to improve public health with these smoking bans, then why not make cigarettes illegal all together? My guess is the fat tax they collect on every carton of Marlboro Reds that my Uncle Fred buys is just too good to pass up.
On another note: I find it hilarious that some state ordinances allow smoking in establishments where more than 70% of their annual gross sales in alcoholic beverages for consumption by guests on the premises. I can practically hear the higher ups justifying this rule with the rationalization– “this will be really popular for those people that only smoke when they’re drunk.”