At this writing, smoking bans
are a political fad, spreading across North America and, increasingly,
Europe. Politicians these days love to ban things. In the case
of smoking, they figure it makes them look good ( healthy! )
and that there won't be too much opposition (the majority doesn't
smoke and doesn't care much). As for the smokers: they're filthy
and stupid, right? Who cares about them?
There is a lot of emotive nonsense
talked about smoking bans, and I'd like to try to cut through
some of it. There are three possible justifications for smoking
bans, and antismokers shuffle between them like Three-Card Monte
sharks. But none of them stands up to closer scrutiny.
(1) Some (or many) people don't
like smoke. Sure, but this is a matter of taste, as well as,
arguably, fashion. (I recently came across an article by psychologist
Ernst Dichter in which he states that while everyone likes the
smell of smoke, most people have to acquire the taste. It was
written in 1947.)
It is madness for governments
to pass laws on the basis of taste and fashion. Where are they
supposed to stop? I don t mind smoke in a pub, but there are
quite a few things I do mind.
Dogs (I'm allergic to them).
Big TV screens. People shouting into mobile phones. Loud music.
Bad music. Bad beer. Can I have a ban or two of my own, please?
If people don't like smoke,
ventilation should be improved. If that's not enough, there should
be separate rooms, and if that's not enough, a choice of smoking
and nonsmoking venues.
But matters of taste and fashion
are for the free market to decide, not the government. Smokers
may be a minority (albeit a large one) but it is a misunderstanding
of democracy to say that the tastes of the majority should be
imposed on everyone (Thomas Jefferson warned against the tyranny
of the majority ). Anyway, I don't believe the majority does
want smoking bans; I think that even in the current antismoking
climate, most people would, if given the option, prefer reasonable
and considerate restrictions and some sort of choice. Smoking
has been a part of British pub culture, for instance, for hundreds
of years, and most people who go to pubs are still willing to
accept it so long as the air isn't too smoky, and so long as
people who are truly traumatised by smoke have some nonsmoking
places to go to. I have some sympathy for these people, but for
them to insist that smoking be banned in every pub in the country
just in case they may want to someday go into one of them is
Meanwhile there are some of
us for whom a bar counter without ashtrays is naked, and a bar
which forbids smoking is just not a bar. It s like a fish and
chip shop which forbids salt and vinegar. It is an abomination.