Staff Ed: Appleton Smoking Ban? Pro-Stance

William Dalsen

The primary conflict raised by the proposed smoking ban is between free market principles and the health of employees and the general public. We should support the smoking ban first because the local economy will not be drastically damaged, and second because free market principles cannot be more important than a serious and objectively identified health risk.
The local economy will probably not seriously suffer from a smoking ban. In long-term studies cited by the city of Appleton, there is no evidence of substantial economic damage. The studies may be flawed, and it is possible that what works in California and New York may not work as well in Wisconsin. But given no such evidence, and also given the facts that individuals will still be able to smoke in designated areas or outside and that many are non-smokers, it does not seem that we can accept the claim that citizens will stop patronizing restaurants – or that college students will stop going to nearby bars – because of a smoking ban.
More importantly, even if a reasonable amount of economic damage would occur from a smoking ban, we still must attribute greater value to the health of workers and the general public. We can look at this in many different ways. First, the long-term healthcare cost from secondhand smoke damage will probably outweigh the loss of even several businesses in the short-term. Second, it does not seem that those who wish to smoke should be able to impose a serious health risk upon non-smokers. Even if smokers have the right to harm themselves, this does not mean they should harm others.
While we could suggest that either smokers or non-smokers simply take their business elsewhere, this does not seem necessary: it seems that the temporary dissatisfaction of smokers is less important than the risks to the health of workers and the public from smokers, and hence both groups can enjoy the services of local businesses while the more important matter – public health – is given preference.