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Thoughts from Las Vegas

Much to the chagrin of my wife, I managed to sneak in a Las Vegas weekend with the boys. I was in Phoenix on friday for work and it just did not seem to make sense to rush home right after the meetings given I had a free place to stay at the Bellagio, compliments of my wealthy cousin (I’m on the hide a bed though). Turns out that Las Vegas hotels are in the minority of hotels in the US that still allow smoking. And not just on the casino floor, but in the hallways, shops, and rooms as well. I woke up today smelling like an ashtray. I really hate the smoke.

Today’s question,life from Las Vegas,is should the government ban smoking in casino’s, bars, or other private establishments. Although this is not directly an obesity question, it gets back to the larger issue of the proper role of government when it comes to risky behaviors.

In my opinion, the government should not ban smoking in private establishments. I say this even though I benefit from these laws. The reason I take this view is that the market should be able to solve this problem. For example, where I live in Chapel Hill, there are some bars that allow smoking, and some that do not. On the rare occasion that I go out with my friends, we go to the non-smoking bars. However, I have one friend who is a smoker, and when I’m with him we sometimes go to the smoking bar. It’s always a debate. I don’t like it when he gets his way but I could certainly choose not to go there if I wanted to. Same goes for the Vegas casinos. If they do not want to ban smoking, then they run the risk of losing my business and the $40 I lost last night playing blackjack. I doubt they’d be too heartbroken.

One might make the argument that employees in smoke-filled establishments suffer from the smoke. That is true but the market should be able to compensate them as well. Those who work in risky jobs typically make higher wages to compensate for the higher risks. Coal miners, for example, make pretty good money as a result of the health risks this job entails. Why doesn’t government outlaw coal mining?

For the record, I think smoking is a terrible habit and would certainly never want my kids to become smokers. But that does not mean I think government should make cigarettes illegal or ban smoking in places where minors are even allowed to go. I do think an appropriate role of government is to regulate smoking in PUBLIC places, and am glad that most public places have become smoke free. However, what one does in the privacy of their own home or private establishment, should be left for the individual proprietor to decide. We, as patrons, can then decide if we want to patronize it.

There is a clear link between this discussion and obesity. Anyone see it?

Gotta run. I’m off to the (smoky) blackjack tables. Let me know if you disagree.

2 Responses to “Thoughts from Las Vegas”

  1. WTM Says:

    It’s messed up as an owner that I can not smoke in my own establishment if I wanted. People should be able to make their own decisions…informed decisions if the government wants to create an awareness about certain issues, i.e. smoking, eating habits. That should be it though.

  2. finkelstein Says:

    In general I agree. I think it is fine for the government to regulate certain activities to protect third parties, especially children, but in the case of anti-smoking legislation I think they’ve gone too far. As a nonsmoker, it’s not that I don’t like the laws, I just think they extend beyond what government should be doing.

The Fattening of America
How the Economy Makes Us Fat, If It Matters, and What to Do About It
by Eric A. Finkelstein & Laurie Zuckerman

Copyright © 2008 Eric A. Finkelstein & Laurie Zuckerman