Six years after New York City passed a ban on smoking in bars and restaurants, it is easier than ever to find smokers partying indoors like it’s 1999, or at least 2002. In November, Eater.com called it “the worst kept secret in New York nightlife” that “smoking is now allowed in numerous nightspots, specifically just about any and every lounge and club with a doorman and a rope.” A few weeks later, GuestofaGuest.com, a blog about New York clubs and bars, posted a “smoker’s guide to N.Y.C. nightlife.”Thus, as with other prohibitions, smoking bans breed disrespect for the law.
“Everyone looks the other way,” said Billy Gray, 25, a reporter for Guest of a Guest, who says that he knows precisely which high-end bars and lounges, most of them in the meatpacking district or Lower East Side, will let him smoke inside. Far from deterring smoking indoors, the ban simply adds an allure to it, said Mr. Gray, a half-pack-a-day smoker.
“It’s more of an illicit thrill now,” he said. “Like when you were a teenager and snuck a beer in your parents’ basement.”
Is a prohibition ever the right policy? What about the ban on murder? Take as given that this one is a good idea. So what's the difference between banning murder and banning smoking in restaurants?
Everyone agrees that murder inflicts grave harm one someone who cannot easily avoid that harm. Smoking in restuarants does not share this feature. Even taking the evidence on second-hand smoke at face value, the effects from occasional expsoure are trivial, and anyone who wants to avoid them can stay home or patronize non-smoking restaurants.
Smoking bans are also miguided because they assume restaurants and bars are "public" and should therefore be subject to regulation by government. Instead, any privately owned establishment should be regarded as fully private, with owners allowed to offer smoking versus non-smoking experiences, as they wish.