Smoking bans are feel-good public policy. There is no debating that the bans are very good for eliminating hazardous and unpleasant second-hand smoke. However, the bans have real-life consequences for business owners, and they often hurt. From today's Indy Star report:
And area restaurants, most of which will become smoke-free under the ban, are wrestling with whether to limit dining choices for families in order to be exempted from the policy.
"That's the decision everybody is trying to make. That's the tough part of it," said Chad Ashley, general manager of Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery in Downtown Indianapolis. "Most likely, we will be smoke-free."
Bars and restaurants that don't admit patrons younger than 18, private clubs and cigar bars are exempt from the ban.
Restauranteurs have to figure out where their money really comes from. Does it come from smokers or non-smokers? Then, they will exclude that group that represents the least of their incomes. Or, as one industry insider puts it,
"They have to decide whether to give up prom business or family business," said John Livengood, president of the Restaurant and Hospitality Association of Indiana. "It's a tough economic decision."
Public policy should never include zero-sum games like this. Public policy should always empower business owners to improve their bottom lines, not reduce them. Most importantly, public policy should always respect property rights.
Republicans and Democrats have all lost sight of these things in the rush to sign feel-good legislation into effect. Make it your New Year's Resolution to vote Libertarian in November!