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Bars and taverns ban smoking - voluntarily

By Scott Tibbs, July 13, 2011

The Evansville Courier had an interesting article on smoking: Despite the fact that the city's smoking ban allows smoking in bars and taverns, many of those establishments are banning smoking voluntarily. Why? Because 72% of Vanderburgh County residents are nonsmokers.

See, this is how the market should work. A business makes a decision to please the majority of customers and therefore increase the number of people who will patronize his business. This voluntary change in policy may annoy some, but will please a larger number. Therefore, the majority gets what it wants: Less smoking in public, less secondhand smoke and, hopefully, less smoking overall.

Proponents of a nanny state don't agree. They want to force businesses to ban the use of a legal product on private property. Instead of allowing consenting adults to make their own choices, the nanny state forces its own preferences on everyone through the force of law.

But the reality is that as the dangers of smoking have become more well-known and as smoking became less socially acceptable in the culture, smoking rates have dropped dramatically. In the mid-1960's, over 50% of men smoked. Today, less than 25% of men smoke. Smoking rates for women (who have always smoked less than men) have seen a similar decline over the last 40 years.

There is no doubt that government policy, from steadily-increasing taxes on cigarettes to regulations on where and when people can smoke, has had an impact. But there is no doubt that tens of millions of people have simply decided not to smoke any more, while tens of millions more have decided never to start at all. The culture is already moving in the right direction. We do not need more bans on smoking and restrictions on private property rights.

Ultimately, this comes down to the role of government and how we want to live with our neighbors. Do we want to persuade them to follow our line of thinking, or do we want to force them to do as we say? With the rise of the Tea Party movement, hopefully we will see a lot more of the former and a lot less of the latter. But we see every year there are legislators who want to micromanage our lives. Those people must be stopped.