The wide consequences of a simple smoking ban

Perhaps no one understands the negative effects of government regulation like a smoker.

Politicians are always finding a new way to control smokers — where they smoke, or how much they can buy, or how ridiculously high the taxes are. I recently moved to San Antonio, Texas, and before I moved I did my research. I looked up things like cigar taxes and state smoking laws and so on. I was rather excited to move here because the taxes were relatively low compared to what I was used to in Virginia, and cigar lounges were far more common.  Unfortunately, I failed to notice one important detail:  San Antonio passed a very strict anti-smoking bill.

The worst part of the regulation is how many people are so eager to ban smoking. They are afraid of the dangers of second hand smoke, or the “third hand smok” that the doctors have started to warn us about. Whenever a bill like this is passed, it usually comes with overwhelming support.  Often the only opposition comes from smokers themselves.  It’s as if people think that it’s not so bad if some people lose freedom just as long as it’s not them. But if the government is willing to regulate something as personal as smoking, what’s to stop it from regulating anything else it pleases?

In Virginia, a state delegate is about to propose a bill that would ban a synthetic weed product known as “spice” on the grounds that it causes seizures.  But what if someone who worked at a nightclub testified before Congress that bright flashing lights caused seizures?  Would light bulbs be outlawed?  Oh wait…

In 2007 President Bush signed the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 which outlaws 100 watt incandescent light bulbs at the beginning of January 2012 and ends with the 40 watt bulb in 2014. Now, while fluorescent light bulbs are more efficient than incandescent light bulbs, they’re also twice as expensive and can be unpleasantly bright.  Meanwhile, though politicians tell us this law is necessary to save energy, our country downs bottled water at a rate of 8.6 billions of water a year.  In addition, 17 million barrels of oil are used every year to create the bottles. That’s a lot of energy.  So should the daily flow of water be regulated by the government as well?

In 1992, the federal government passed a bill that said that shower heads couldn’t release more than 2.5 gallons of water per minute. This caused many people to install multiple showerheads into their shower to get greater water pressure. So now the government wants to limit your showerheads. And it’s just not showers that are taking the heat; the porcelain throne is also being regulated. Toilets made after 1992 can only use 1.6 gallons a flush, compared to the 3.2 beforehand. When this happened a grey market opened up: People were going to junk yards to find old toilets so they could get the 3.2 tanks.

The list goes on and on. Some people have allergies to shellfish, so why has the government not outlawed oysters?  Oysters kill.

I did quite a bit of research on this article and so I did not finish it one sitting. In fact, as I was writing on bottled water, I remembered I was out so I had to get some.  On the way to the store, I saw a kid lose a helium balloon. Should that kid be fined for losing a balloon that a duck could choke on?

There is also the economic reality that goes along with this:  We may see the isolated “good” consequences of a regulation, but we probably won’t see the dispersed bad consequences, such as elimination of jobs and even whole industries.  For more on this, read Henry Hazlitt’s short book, Economics in One Lesson.

In short, if you don’t think that a simple smoking ban affects you, think again.  Today it may only be smokers who lose their freedoms, but tomorrow it could be you.

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