The Law Of Unintended Consequences Strikes Again

A study has found that smoking bans contribute to an increase in drunk driving as smokers either go to bars where smoking is allowed, or go home earlier than they otherwise would.

The First Law of Public Policy strikes again—every public policy has a set of unintended negative consequences and the magnitude of those consequences are in proportion to the sweep of the policy. The smoking ban is no different—instead of letting bar owners, patrons, and workers decide for themselves based on all the available information, the government decided to make the choice for them.

There’s no question that smoking is incredibly bad for you, and second-hand smoke is dangerous. At the same time, the government makes a large sum of money off the sale of every cigarette. The cigarette companies receive justified criticism for profiting of the sale of a product that kills half of the people who use it—but exactly why is government less culpable when they too are making money off the sale of cigarettes?

Whether or not the benefits of smoking bans outweigh the increase risk and the additional cost is an open question. Even if they do, it’s still worth asking the question of just how much power we should be giving government to regulate our private affairs.