There is no doubt in my mind that smoking cigarettes and breathing secondhand smoke are harmful to health. If a young person asked my advice as to whether to smoke cigarettes, I would strongly urge them to avoid smoking.
But it doesn’t follow that we should have laws against smoking, or laws that govern how businesses such as bars and restaurants must accommodate smokers and non-smokers.
Smoking is (and should continue to be) a legal activity. It seems unlikely to me that there are adults who are not familiar with the data about the risks of smoking, and they are entitled to make up their own minds as to whether to smoke.
In a similar fashion, business owners should be able to allow smoking or not, as they judge best serves the interests of their customers. Already many restaurants have judged that their customers prefer no smoking at all. That decision may drive off smoking customers, but that’s the business owner’s decision to make.
Some businesses allow smoking, presumably because the owners decide it is in their best interests to allow smoking. If their customers tell them otherwise or if customers stay away, the business owner has a powerful incentive to change the smoking policy, either to ban it entirely, or to create a more effective barrier between smokers and non-smokers.
People, through their free selection of where they choose to spend their dollars, will let bar and restaurant owners know their preferences. After some time we will have the optimal mix of smoking and non-smoking establishments based on what people actually do, not what politicians think they should do. Isn’t that better than using the heavy hand of government to force change?
I believe that markets, if left to their own mechanism, would serve to reduce smoking. Already smokers pay more for life insurance. If it is true that smokers have more costly health problems than non-smokers, why not let health insurance be priced separately for smokers and non-smokers?
Or, when renting an apartment, a landlord could charge smokers more to compensate for the higher risk of fire and the extra cleanup costs when the renters leave.