In a recent op-ed in the Raleigh News & Observer, the author thinks that because a bunch of other places have banned smoking, so should North Carolina:
We know that now, or we should. They certainly know it in 19 other states, where smoking even in bars is banned, or is about to be. Those states include such inconsequential places as California, New York, Arizona and Illinois (which acted just this month). They also know it in entire countries — England (starting July 1), Ireland (yes, smoking is banned even in Irish pubs), New Zealand, Norway and many more.
A lot of other countries have a national religion, but that doesn’t mean we should. This faulty reasoning is a form of fallacy ad populum. It amounts to ‘everyone else is, so we should too.’
The author goes on to dismiss one of the basic principles of our republic, while making a false comparison with health and hygiene regulation:
And they don’t waste a lot of breath on the "property rights" argument. Public accommodations have long been regulated for reasons of public health. It’s no big step from barring bacteria-contaminated burgers to banning carcinogen-contaminated smoke. If this were about rights, what about the right of workers to practice their trades in air not made unhealthy by smokers’ actions? Or the right of municipalities to limit smoking locally, as hundreds in the United States have done, but as state law here has prohibited?
Having to explain to Americans why property rights are important is, in itself, disturbing. First, note the term "public accommodations" as if businesses were open to accommodate The People (cue Soviet music), instead of being in business for profit.
Second, notice the attempt to acknowledge some abstract right of employees to work completely without risk, and with an atmosphere of their choosing–not the proprietor’s. Should municipal garbage collectors be ‘free’ to work without risk of traffic? Should roofers be free to work without risk of falls? Should NASCAR drivers be free to work without risk of crashes? Or King Crab fisherman without risk of capsizing?
Finally, the analogy to spoiled burgers just doesn’t hold. People enter into an establishment with an expectation that they will be served uncontaminated food — (nevermind that they accept the risks associated with fat and cholesterol). People may choose to (or not) enter a PRIVATE establishment with a smoking policy chosen by the proprietor and accept the risks of second-hand smoke.
In short: private property rights should be absolute. The risk preferences of people cannot override something so basic as those rights. And just because hundreds of places around the country have done it, doesn’t make it right. To those who would save us? : Deferring to property rights and free choice is always a safe bet on questions of policy.