Smoking Bans and other “Feel Good” Legislation yet Government just can’t Quit the Smoking Habit

Legislative smoking bans and the general outright social disdain for smoking seems to have had some interesting consequences that I wonder if their proponents ever foresaw:

  • A dramatic increase in the number of smoke shops (exempt from smoking bans) where people smoke far more dangerous things than cigarettes such as cigars and even hookahs
  • An increase in the use of smokeless tobacco – even new kinds of smokeless tobacco are being developed and marketed, such as Snus, and are immensely popular (smokeless tobacco use is increasing something like 10% a year – well in excess of the increase of the redneck population)
  • Smoking ends up being as rebellious and anti-establishment as it ever was

Legal smoking alternative?You see, the issue is simply this: for any “low-grade” vice you can think of, there is a certain percentage of the population who is going to engage in that vice – often regardless  of the consequences.  Legislative solutions to these classes of problems have consistently been shown not to work.

Governments’ half hearted attempts to limit drinking and smoking are particularly disingenuous and cynical when they use the tax revenues generated to support budget shortfalls and normal operating costs.  Remember that big umpty bazillion dollar State Tobacco Settlement that was supposed to go toward (1) funding government health care for smokers and (2) smoking cessation efforts?  It didn’t – it went into state coffers to be squandered on completely unrelated state budget items.

When it comes to complex social ills such as vices, you can be sure of only one thing: that simple, “feel good” solutions won’t work and will probably make the problem far worse.  Can they be solved?  Sure – we were able to get the Romans to stop feeding Christians to lions for entertainment, weren’t we?  But it takes a genuine commitment beyond the simple, superficial, “feel good” type. 

And above all you have to be honest and consistent in your message.  If you say something is evil and deadly, you then don’t take this “blood money” and use it to fund your state budgets.  Governments are the first ones who need to quit the smoking habit – perhaps then others will follow their example.  


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