Smoking Bans and Property Rights

Published September 12, 2008

As President Calvin Coolidge once said, “Ultimately property rights and personal rights are the same thing.” Property rights are at the heart of the smoking ban debate, but they are often overlooked at the expense of what is perceived to be the “greater good.” A true respect for property rights requires that business owners be free to make decisions on their own, with the marketplace rewarding or punishing them accordingly for their choices.

Many businesses have already chosen, without government intervention, to go smoke-free or to offer their customers smoke-free environments. That decision should be theirs to make. Businesses make such decisions every day, always aiming to please their customers and satisfy a marketplace demand.

Smokers should not be turned into second-class citizens for using a legal product when the free market offers both smoking and non-smoking environments for employees and customers to choose from.

Smoking bans restrict consumer choice and infringe upon property rights. The community is better served when businesses, employees, and consumers are allowed to self-regulate and reach accommodations among themselves, rather than punishing some by legislative force.

The following articles offer additional information on the consequences of lost property rights due to smoking bans.

Bloomberg Smokes Out Property Rights
Robert A. Levy, a senior fellow in constitutional studies at the Cato Institute, dissects New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s argument for a smoking ban. Levy pays particular attention to how smoking bans infringe on property rights.

Still Pooping in My Salad
Heartland President Joseph Bast addresses the wide range of issues raised by smoking bans — from secondhand smoke to the economics of smoking bans to the impact on freedom and property rights.

You Don’t Own Joe’s Bar and Grill
This article explains how a Toronto smoking ban reduces consumer choice and is an assault on property rights. It argues that in a free economy businesses should be allowed to adapt to their customers’ wants.

Smoking Bans Cloud Free Market’s Ability to Thrive
The Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions takes a comprehensive look at smoking bans. It concludes that the best way to promote win-win smoking policy is to inform and educate rather than legislate and regulate.

Smoking Ban Smoke Screen,2933,103588,00.html
This article makes the point that smoking ban activists want to limit personal choices, rather than allowing people to choose between smoking and non-smoking establishments.

The Case Against Smoking Bans
Thomas A. Lambert, an associate professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law, argues that the market is the best place to make decisions on smoking. He writes, “a laissez-faire approach better accommodates heterogeneous preferences regarding public smoking.”

Smoking Ban Violates Business Owner’s Property Rights
When business owners invest their time and resources into building a sustainable and profitable business, a government should not be allowed to come in and mandate how that business is run.

FreedomWorks Defeats North Carolina Smoking Ban in Victory for Property Rights
North Carolina rejects a smoking ban proposal. The House minority leader admitted the bill, while perhaps well-intended, did not protect property rights.

For further information on the subject, you can visit The Heartland Institute‘s Web site at, where you will find articles on the issue available through PolicyBot, Heartland’s free research database.

Nothing in this message is intended to influence the passage of legislation, and it does not necessarily represent the views of The Heartland Institute. If you have any questions about this issue or the Heartland Web site, you may contact Legislative Specialist John Nothdurft at 312/377-4000 or [email protected].