Smoke Nannies Must Consider the Costs of Their Policies

Published July 26, 2007

The governor and state legislature may have shot themselves in the foot enacting a state-wide smoking ban at a time when revenue from casinos and hospitality industry tax revenues could help balance the state budget.

While they pat themselves on their proverbial backsides and declare victory in response to their financial support from anti-smoking nonprofit-lobbyists, they are cutting off their economic nose to spite their face.

Economic losses: millions in bar and pub sales taxes, income taxes from laid-off employees of bars and restaurants, payroll costs and benefits for legions of “smoke-nazis” to be deployed to persecute non-cooperating businesses and individuals.

Businesses bleed too: open to new lawsuits from employees who can now contend their employer may have violated their civil rights by failing to enforce the smoking ban. So litigation against employers will create a rise in insurance and health care costs for all employers.

The United Kingdom has enacted country-wide smoking bans. Yet, in a warning that American employers must heed, the bans also decrease productivity at work: Gordon Timeline, business psychologist at the stress consultancy Robertson Cooper, said, “Although the long-term health benefits of restricted smoking are clear, many smokers will feel a loss of both control and of a short term sedative. This can lead to an initial increase in stress levels and can impact productivity at work.”

Illinois cannot even complete its budget process due to lack of revenues. Yet these bunglers can still sock it to the taxpayers by decreasing revenue collection while promising citizens and businesses fines and persecution in the name of health care and banning currently legal products.

The personal encroachment has only begun. Expect the costs of these totalitarian policies to reverberate throughout every facet of state and local government finances.

Ralph W. Conner ([email protected]) is local legislation manager for The Heartland Institute.