Are smokers infringing on your rights?

Mary Ruwart Comments


I disagree with your recent column on smoking. Why is it up to the non-smoker to choose a smoke-free work environment or restaurant? Isn’t this a case where a person’s right to swing their arms (i.e., smoking) ends with the next person’s nose (potential health risks and fouling the clothing of non-smokers)? Isn’t it the smokers who are infringing on my right to be free of their smoke?



I, too, am a non-smoker who appreciates a smoke-free environment, so I know exactly where you are coming from.

Libertarians don’t support government-mandated smoking bans in restaurants and bars, because these restaurants and bars are the property of the owners, not the patrons or the government. Only the owners of these establishments have the right to determine whether smoking will be permitted.

Similarly, libertarians wouldn’t outlaw smoking in residences so that non-smoking visitors wouldn’t have to breathe the smoke of their hosts. In both cases, the owners decide what type of environment that they will invest in; patrons and visitors are free to decide if they wish to expose themselves to that environment.

Of course, “public” (government-owned) property, like courthouses and municipal buildings, poses special problems, because the “owners” (supposedly the entire citizenry, which include smokers and non-smokers), are unlikely to agree on whether or not to ban smoking there. So settling such disagreements is almost impossible. Such dilemmas support the libertarian notion that all property (or at the very least, as much as possible) should be private, and such decisions left to the owners. Clearly-defined property rights solve many, many problems!

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