Vice Squad
Wednesday, October 22, 2003
More on Smoking Bans

Beth Plocharczyk of Crescat Sententia (hey, where's Will?), despite the fact that cigarette smoke is more than irritating for her, does not favor a ban on smoking in restaurants and bars. Neither does Sasha Volokh of the Volokh Conspiracy. The proximate cause of their commentary is the prospect that Massachusetts will implement a statewide ban on smoking in taverns and nightclubs.

The commentaries seem to be written from the point of view of patrons, but supporters of such bills typically focus on employees. People who work in smoky bars have longer and more sustained exposure than do customers, so to the extent that second hand smoke causes health problems (a controversial issue, though many people certainly don't like environmental tobacco smoke), employees are at the greatest risk. Vice Squad has addressed this issue a bit in the past, and comes down on the same side as Plocharczyk and Volokh -- prohibition is too stringent. But not all regulation of smoking in private workplaces is misplaced, I would suggest. How far it should go -- well, here I am unsure. Requiring some sort of air filtering system that keeps tobacco smoke concentration below some threshold (though environmental tobacco smoke has been pegged as having "no safe level" for health) is, to me, not obviously too stringent a standard (if the threshold is not set too low, that is.)

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