Not to Make Light of a Serious Incident

I wonder if the authors of the smoking study in Helena, Montana factored in this hidden cost of the smoking ban–more fights.

Googling around, I still can’t find much in the way of news stories about researchers questioning the findings of the study, which is odd since the immediate 50% reduction is so implausible on its face. I did find a few city councils that are considering a ban and cite the study (e.g., here and here).

Also, Montana’s governor, Judy Martz, is apparently about to sign a ban on smoking bans:

“Republican Gov. Judy Martz said she will sign the bill because it protects property rights of businesses and because of strong bipartisan support in the state Legislature.”

I happen to think both sides are wrong (even though they have the opposite positions!). I’ve long puzzled over why smoking bans or smoking-bans-bans are necessary; it really seems like the market should take care of an issue like this. Based on personal experience, there are many people out there who really can’t tolerate smoke and avoid bars for that very reason. If there is in fact more than a trivial number of such people–and the support for smoking bans suggests there are–then it should be profitable to open and promote a No-Smoking Bar, regardless of local laws. How many such bars should there be? Well if one bar converted to non-smoking and it were profitable, then others would copy it. This would continue until the profits of running a non-smoking bar were about the same as those from a smoking bar. Then everyone could go to the bar that makes them happy and there’s no need for the government to be involved. If a non-smoking bar simply isn’t profitable, then it’s a clear sign that non-smoking bars are not something the public values, and therefore the government probably has more important things to deal with. I really sound like a conservative right now. And, while I advocate for the free market, Montana’s conservative governor is about to sign a law that takes away local authority to pass smoking laws.