Smoking is a source of great controversy, and most individuals either support it or oppose it. Almost no middle ground exists on the topic of tobacco smoking, and individuals against smoking have taken great strides to promote the cessation of smoking in public places. Unfortunately, this has led to the formation of numerous laws that forbid smoking in specific public places like restaurants, bars, parks, and in some cities, even street corners. Smoking bans target a very wide demographic, alienating regular customers of some establishment and killing business in others. If only for this reason, most smoking bans should not be in place.
In the United States, smoking bans vary greatly between states. Even in specific states, different jurisdictions often come with different laws. The American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation released a statement in 2011 stating that almost 80% of the population lives under some sort of smoking ban. That same foundation has worked tirelessly to successfully ban smoking in all public places including bars, restaurants, workplaces, and even public streets. Their logic is that banning smoking will cleanse the air of impurities that smokers choose to ingest, but should not inflict onto others.
The unfortunate truth is that not every business wants to place a ban on smoking. In the early 2000s when smoking bans in bars grew more rigid, the owners and managers of nightlife establishments complained that business took a sharp downward spiral as a result. People could no longer smoke in establishments that served food and customers did not want to come in for drinks, only to step outside whenever they wanted to smoke. Bar owners lost money because of smoking bans; some were even forced out of business. This is especially unfair to business owners who did not receive options before the bans became law.
The biggest argument from individuals who support smoking bans is that they should not have to breathe polluted air just because people near them want to smoke. They fear exposure to secondhand smoke and react accordingly. What they do not consider is that they breathe more pollutants in at the street corner when vehicular exhaust enters the air than they do when individuals near them light cigarettes. Exhaust fumes from cars, smoke from the cookers of nearby restaurants, and the dust on city streets do more harm than the occasional whiff of cigarette smoke, yet no bans exist to prevent people from driving, cooking, or kicking up dust.
Smoking is a personal choice, and most smokers are considerate of nonsmokers. Businesses also took strides to create friendly environments for smokers and nonsmokers alike. Before smoking bans became law in the United States, patrons of restaurants were given options regarding whether they wanted to sit in the smoking section or the nonsmoking section. Nonsmoking sections usually came equipped with proper ventilation, limiting where the smoke and odor traveled within the restaurant. This also means that the smoke did not pollute any food.
Some argue that they would not want to take their children to businesses with smoking sections for fear of agitating their sensitive bodies. However, this does not justify banning smoking in areas where only adults are allowed like bars and nightclubs. Smoking in the kitchen is forbidden, so no food is contaminated, and if some individuals are offended by smoke, they have the option of taking their business elsewhere. Unfortunately, nonsmokers continue to wage war against smokers despite the alternatives, claiming that their health is at stake and that a little inconvenience for one group of people can go a long way for everybody else. This is an unfair practice, but one backed by the government in the form of smoking bans.
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Businesses should have the right to determine whether or not to allow smoking. Business owners, employees, and patrons can make decisions for themselves and decide whether or not they want to expose themselves to smoky environments. Government-mandated smoking bans do not solve the smoking “problem.” Smoking bans only harm businesses and limit the liberties of tax-paying American citizens.