Tuesday, February 14, 2006

No Joking: Don't Ban Smoking

I love my American Public Policy course. We just wrapped up our discussion of when and when it is not necessary for the government to intervene in the economy when it comes to market failures. One of the topics we discussed was the ban on smoking in all bars. I want to quickly comment on the Viewpoint article “No Joking: Stop the Smoking” which appeared in this morning’s edition of the Marquette Tribune. In the article, seniors April Kusper and Chris Hoff urge the Milwaukee Common Council to pass the ban on smoking in all restaurants and bars in the city of Milwaukee. They offer a variety of statistics (none of which I can collaborate because I do not have the time at the moment to do so) to persuade readers to support the measure. Here’s what they forget though – there is no market failure to justify such a governmental intervention. First, such a ban would likely have an economic impact on the city. Whether they like to admit or not, smoking bars make money. Second, there is no information cost problem to justify such a governmental intervention. And lastly, the externalities involved are minimal at best. People who don’t like smoking or believe second hand smoke is dangerous (no such study effectively proves this claim) have to go to another bar. Big whoop! This justifies banning smoking in bars and restaurants in the city of Milwaukee, because someone is merely annoyed by it and too lazy to get off their stool and go to a different bar? And if no non-smoking bars exist in the city of Milwaukee (something I may find hard to believe) then become an entrepreneur and build one! You’ll make a ton of money, guaranteed.