Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Smoking Ban

I've written before on why I think a smoking ban isn't illiberal - to summarise, because I don't think freedom necessarily includes the right to force people to breathe in your smoke and make them suffer from the effects of passive smoking. At best, the issue is one of liberty to breathe against the liberty to smoke.

That said, I'm not sure I agree with a ban on smoking that extends to private members' clubs. In a public place where, except at the discretion of a landlord (for what is supposed to be good reason), any person can enter, arguments about liberty do apply. People often use the argument that the market will support no-smoking pubs if there is demand. That is all well and good in cities and towns, but in villages where there is only one pub, the argument is nowhere near as strong. And it only takes a couple of people to be smoking before an atmosphere can become oppressive.

In a private members' club, however, the only people who should be using the bar there are members or their guests. In that instance, I can't see any explanation for a ban on smoking that is liberal. A members' club is a voluntary association of private people; the very title of the club shows that there is a degree of exclusivity in it and therefore we should realise there is very definite personal agency in being in the position where you can enter and use the premises.

For the government to be intervening here is a worrying precedent. I can understand the desire not to want organised crime rings to be working out of private members' clubs, for example, and so they should be subject to the law of the land on that basis. But smoking in those areas allows a member of the club to make a choice based on acceptable risk in applying for membership of the club. It is not a public institution of any kind. The decision in members' clubs should be left to the members alone.