John Locke described liberty as property. One owns certain liberties. That might explain why certain rights are inalienable—they cannot be bartered away.
One aspect of the debate over the recent smoking ban enacted by the City-County Council has been concern over businesses—particularly the taverns at which the legislation was aimed—might lose money if patrons are not allowed to smoke.
Studies from Minnesota and Michigan indicate some bars gain customers, some see no change in business, but far more lose customers. I was in Madison, Indiana, on business a couple of years ago. I had reserved a (smoking) room in a hotel across the street from a restaurant bar that was listed on the National Trivia Network. NTN is nationwide. You can request a game box, take a seat, and play trivia against other patrons or against people across the country.
I entered the place at about four in the afternoon; not a time for heavy traffic, but when one would expect business to begin to pick up for an after-work crowd. The place was empty, but for the manager (who also, I am pretty sure, was the owner) and the cook (in the back). I ordered a beer and a game box. She apologized, saying they no longer carried NTN as it as too expensive. She explained, "This County just went non-smoking. When it did, we lost 75% of our clientele."
I finished by beer and went back across the street to the hotel. When I returned to Madison a couple of months later, that bar-restaurant had been replaced by a restaurant with a family theme.
Property rights are at stake in all this. One property right is that of an owner of a business to allow patrons to engage in the legal activity of smoking cigarettes, cigars, or pipes on premises. If non-smokers choose, they can go to a non-smoking bar.
LET THE MARKET DETERMINE MATTERS. I have not done an actual count, but it appears that in Broad Ripple today, the majority of bars do not allow patrons to smoke. So if someone wishes to go to an establishment free from smoke, she or he has more options than does a person who smokes.
In the lead-up to The Super Bowl®, there was talk that the NFL, and other organizations that stage conventions, might not choose Indianapolis for their events because Indianapolis allows smoking in some bars.
Really? If that were to be the case, I am sure City leaders would find a way to whore the City out, a la Super Bowl®, in such a way that any qualms about smoking would fade: give discounted rates on hotel rooms; do not tax transactions for attendees of whatever conference; provide free taxi and limo service.
The non-smoking ordinance really boils down to control. People who are opposed to smoking want to make certain they carry the day. They herald themselves as champions of good health. Their decisions are superior to the decisions of others, so they should decide for those others. If they are serious about good health, they should try to shut down fast-food places for dishing out the fat and grease that comprises so much of our diets and lead to two of the biggest health threats in our country: heart disease and diabetes.
Argument: If you eat a double cheeseburger with fries, it does not harm the person seated next to you. Au contraire. You are clogging your arteries. That leads to coronary disease. Your health problems will jack insurance rates. If you develop diabetes, you are a high-maintenance patient. Again, my rates are jacked. As I said yesterday, if one wishes to use cost-benefit analysis, use it consistently.
And if we want to talk about direct harm to others, consider a study by the University of Wisconsin in 2008 and a study published this year in The Journal of Public Economics that indicate drunk driving fatalities increase with smoking bans. People travel farther to be able to light up while they have a drink.
So—leave us alone. What will they do next? Tell us we cannot smoke on our decks or in our houses? If the question were one of smoking pot, a lot of the proponents of smoking bans would take the opposing side. This is based on anecdotal information; not a commissioned study.
"Civil Discourse Now" streams "live" on the internet on Saturday mornings at 11. This week our guests will be Indianapolis blogger and media personality Abdul-Hakim Shabazz ( a cigar smoker) and Lindsay Grace, spokesperson for Smoke Free Indy. Paul Ogden and I will discuss Indy’s new smoking ban with them. We will shoot The Show at Indy Cigar Bar, 3357 East 86th Street.
As of 6 a.m. on June 1, 2012, Indianapolis’s smoking ban goes into effect. No longer will a person be allowed to light up in most bars. Smoking will be allowed in existing cigar bars and hookah shops. Also exempt are private clubs.
Join us Saturday for what should be a lively—and civil—discussion of this issue.