The Smoking Room
Banning smoking in public places to discourage smoking is definitely not liberal. J.S. Mill said:
...the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinion of others, to do so would be wise, or even right...
Banning smoking in public places to protect the health of bar staff appears to be liberal... but I believe it isn't. This is for two reasons:
- There are other alternatives that are more liberal than a full ban on smoking in public places. The 'liberal' action is the most liberal out of several alternatives. There is some debate over the effectiveness of extractor fans and the danger posed to bar staff collecting glasses from smoking rooms. But alternatives do exist- incentivising smoke-free bars or paying bar staff 'danger money'. Both of these do not constrain the right of venue owners to choose what activities may occur on their property. Neither do they unduly restrict the choice of smokers.
- Mill writes that that the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others... Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign. People can choose to harm themselves provided they do not harm others. People do dangerous jobs - Homer Simpson for example. Or driving instructors or miners or volcanologists or firemen. They choose these jobs and get paid extra for the risk. We wouldn't consider banning outward-bound courses or airports because instructors and pilots are in more career-related danger than actuaries. Bar staff can choose to put themselves at risk by working in a smoky environment. They may not be renumerated sufficiently for doing so and may not have a choice of whether to work in a smoking or smoke-free bar, but this is not an argument for banning smoking in public places. This is an argument for incentivising smoke-free bars and creating market conditions where bar staff are paid appropriate for the risk they take.