Moscow’s Smoking Ban

Someone asked me a couple of weeks ago what I thought of the Moscow City Council’s vote late this summer banning cigarette smoking in bars and clubs and within 20 feet of entryways.

I think it’s wrong.

If someone has a business, they and only they should be the ones deciding if they will permit or accommodate any legal behavior. Many bar owners want to cater to smokers, and that’s their right. Don’t smoke? Fine, and good for you — but find another bar, then, if you don’t want to breathe second-hand smoke. As for the argument that servers and bartenders in smoking-allowed bars are exposed to high levels of second-hand smoke, my thought is that these servers and bartenders really ought to ply their trade in bars more suitable to their liking.

Finally, I’ll say that Moscow Mayor Nancy Chaney, who has my vote in the upcoming election, missed a golden political opportunity when she chimed in with the other councilmembers in supporting a ban she wasn’t in a position to vote for. The lone liberal on the council, Tom Lamar, isn’t liked by the pro-business people in town anyway; the Greater Moscow Alliance candidates, all “pro-business” and terribly concerned about individual liberties and property rights, voted for the ban with the alacrity of a nicotine-craving guy locked overnight in the Big Smoke store. That upset their base, a demographic that tends to vote to make a point and that, to make that point, might well have cast retaliatory votes for Chaney. She’s not in their camp, but the pro-business crowd is easily angered and nurtures long-term grudges. Had she stayed quiet, she might have benefited from the punishment levied by them against the council conservatives.

I’m pretty sure that a town like Moscow is beset with greater problems than customers smoking in bars, and the freedom of business owners to cater to whatever clientele they choose is not a freedom that the council, or anyone else, has a right to take away. The ordinance won’t last long, though — if the GMA’s Weber defeats Chaney, he’ll be in a penitent position, beholden to the demographic that ushered him and the Council majority in in the first place. Chaney is a better choice for Moscow, but if Weber wins, I predict he’ll reward his base with a repeal of a measure that concerns even this non-Libertarian liberal.

One Response to “Moscow’s Smoking Ban”

  1. Ashwin says:

    Rather good essay.

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