Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Commentary: Smoke Ban Advocates Should Turn Off Their Lights

One of the primary arguments for complete indoor smoking bans is that employees of restaurants and bars that permit smoking are at risk for the effects of second-hand smoke.

That fails to take into account the obvious fact that millions of employees smoke themselves and may desire to work in a place where they can do so.

Americans can choose to work in smoking or non-smoking environments. Using the workplace-protection theory, government should be far more interested in the health consequences of geographically isolated residents of coal-mining parts of the nation, but we aren’t banning the electricity they pull from the earth in risky conditions.

To be consistent, those so worried about workplace safety, and how their own purchasing or lifestyle decisions affect employees, should live by candlelight so we can shut down coal mines and the often fatal working conditions so painfully revealed in the mine accidents of recent years.

One hidden element in what is now a global debate about smoking is this: If smokers can’t seek refuge in a bar, they are more likely to light up at home around kids, who have no choice in the matter.

The marketplace is moving us to a largely smoke-free environment. Why not allow a few bars out by the freaking airport or in forlorn small towns to allow their patrons to smoke? And, yes, there is a rural-urban element to this as the impetus for the Iowa ban comes from Iowa City and Des Moines -- even if some rural legislators voted for it.

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