Vice Squad
Tuesday, November 25, 2003
 
One Compromise on Smoking


The mayor of the Chicagoland village of Hoffman Estates has come
up with an interesting proposal for a partial smoking ban in workplaces,
according to this article in today's Trib. The ban would only apply to
office buildings containing a common ventilation system but multiple
businesses. The proposal is prompted by a complaint from a physician
concerning smoke that filters into her office from neighboring
businesses.

The mayor employed a sort of "assumption of risk" analysis in
formulating his proposal: "He said the proposal also would leave out
bars and restaurants, a more common battleground for anti-smoking
measures, because 'if you take a job in one of those establishments,
you can expect smoking. But if you take a job in a doctor's office, you
don't expect secondhand smoke in the ventilation.'"

Vice Squad is against broad smoking bans, and even this circumscribed
one might be a bit heavy-handed for my tastes. Why not allow smoking
if the ventilation system is sufficiently able to filter out smoke? Further,
the market for commercial real estate might be competitive enough and
the participants savvy enough for the market solution to be workable.
But in general some regulation of smoking in public places seems desirable
to me, given the long-term, low probability nature of the harm (admittedly
not all that well-established scientifically) from secondary smoke, and the
difficulties people have in making decisions that serve their own best
interests in such circumstances. At any rate, the mayor's suggestion is
novel and not devoid of logic.

The Trib's sister publication Red Eye had an update today on how the market
is dealing with smoking in Chicago bars and restaurants: "Of the approximately
6,500 restaurants in Chicago, about 500 are smoke-free, from casual eateries
to some of the city's best dining spots..."

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