Property Rights Up in Smoke

Posted on June 20, 2005
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Smoking is a dirty habit, and unhealthy too.

But are these reasons enough for government to infringe on fundamental, constitutional property rights?

Apparently so in Flagstaff, which recently joined Mesa, Tempe, and localities around the country to ban smoking in privately owned restaurants and bars. Flagstaff officials plan to go a step further and restrict smoking on sidewalks, where smokers have sought refuge since the ban went into effect in May, outside such establishments. And, groups like Arizonans Concerned About Smoking have their hopes set on a statewide smoking ban.

While advocates claim bans protect non-smokers and bar employees from secondhand smoke, the evidence that secondhand smoke causes illness is controversial at best, as Robert Levy documented in a 2002 Goldwater Institute study.

The fundamental issue, however, is the right of bar and restaurant owners to decide how to run their businesses. Imposing the wishes of anti-smoking advocates on bar and restaurant owners violates their property rights, rights that have enabled them to build successful businesses in the first place.

And smoking bans fail to recognize that employees and customers are adults who can assess the risks of working at or patronizing businesses that permit smoking.

In a free society that respects private property, business owners, not government, ought to decide how to operate their bars and restaurants.

Key Links:
- Arizona Daily Sun: "Sidewalk bar smoking targeted"
-Goldwater Institute study: Arizona's Anti-Tobacco Crusade: Smoke Free or Free to Smoke?
-Study: Environmental tobacco smoke and tobacco related mortality in a prospective study of Californians, 1960-98
-Cato Institute report: Secondhand Smoke: Facts and Fantasy
- Washington Post: "D.C. Should Keep the Freedom in Smoke-Free"

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