Smoking Bans

Professor Bainbridge has a post that ties in nicely with my Laura Miller rant titled Smoking bans and private property rights. The crux is:

Externalities sometimes justify government intervention. If I run a factory that spews pollution into the air, the damage to my neighbors and the environment is part of the overall social cost of running my factory. Because I don’t bear those costs, however, I have no incentive to reduce the pollution my factory generates. By adopting appropriate regulations, the government can force me to internalize the cost of pollution, which is a fancy way of saying that the government can force me to take those costs into account when I make decisions.

The mere existence of an externality does not justify legislation, however. In a free society, with limited government and respect for private property rights, at least two conditions must be satisfied before government intervention is warranted. First, my actions must in fact produce external costs. Second, there must be a market failure — that is, people must be unable to solve the problem without government help.

The one part that I take exception to is this:

The secondhand smoke problem usually is the principal justification for banning smoking in public places. Fair enough. I will concede that smoking has negative externalities.

If that given was taken simply to move the argument along, I can accept that, but I hope that he doesn’t actually believe that tripe. The science behind the “secondhand smoke” claim is the biggest pile of horseshit I have ever seen (and my grandfather raises horses, so I’ve seen a few piles.)


  1. hln says:

    “Not dead” does not health make. Secondhand smoke does some nasty, nasty things to me. I assume firsthand, would, too, but I’ve never been stupid enough to try it.


  2. Jay Solo says:

    As someone who is deeply affected by secondhand smoke, I know that however shoddy the science may be (and what a hard thing to test, anyway), there absolutely is harm caused by it to at least enough of the population to give pause.

    I believe that cigarettes shouldn’t be taxed or regulated, in an ideal world, but that they fall under the harm principle when affecting another person. I also have always believed there’s a market for smoke-free places, and for smoking places. If, say, a restaurant wants to cater to smokers, great. There shouldn’t be blanket bans that preclude that.

    And this is from someone who with exposure to smoke gets sicker and sicker, to the point of being dysfunctional. You’d think I’d want them banished from the planet, but that would be wrong.

  3. Phelps says:

    Guys — the fact that you are affected doesn’t make it dangerous. It means that you have an allergy. Some people are alergic to strawberries. Some people are deathly alergic to peanuts (and idiotarians are doing their best to ban them because of it). Lots and lots and lots of people are alergic to pollens.

    Jay seems to get that — there need to be places that people who are alergic to tobacco can go, and as long as there are enough people who are (or people who simply don’t like smoke) then that market will be filled. As long as there are people who like to smoke (or like the people who do) then the state should allow that market to be filled.