Why Have Smoking Bans Caught On So Easily?

Even in Ireland and Italy? And why, meanwhile, are bans on things like file-sharing failing so miserably? Henry Farrell at the Crooked Timber blog argues that smoking bans succeed in large part because prevailing societal norms about smoking — e.g. “That Irish people can smoke in pubs to their hearts’ content, and that others will just have to put up with it” — were much weaker than we thought. After all, he writes, “state enforcement capacities are obviously insufficient to push something like this through.” [%comments]


Isn't it because a smoking ban is easy to enforce, you can obviously see someone smoking and write them a ticket or whatever for it, but "catching" someone downloading is much harder and pretty much impossible to prove it was one person when it could be someone else using their computer. It's like enforcing a law to not videotape a show that's on tv at people's homes, good luck with that.

David D

Also, those of us who have never wanted cigarette smoke suddenly realized our number is legion. Now we are the intimidating force which brooks no argument. Before this, it was the army of smokers.


Smokers were the loudest complainers about the ban when it first took place here in NJ. Non-smokers were not as vociferous because smoking had always been allowed. Once the ban took place I think more people enjoy the smoke free bars than there are smokers who have to go outside for their fix. (plus there is now a social aspect for the outside smokers as they are forced to meet other smokers)


Maybe it's because file sharing doesn't get into the lungs and clothing of the people surrounding you.


Maybe it is just that it is a noxious, stinking, costly, deadly habit and there are more non-smokers than smokers.


The negative effects of file-sharing are abstract and indirect. The negative effects of cigarette smoke, on the other hand, are immediately obvious for anyone who dislikes smoke and has entered a smoking restaurant.

It's significantly easier to get support for something that affects people on a personal level.

Will C

Don't forget that people can easily see those breaking a smoking ban (and it only takes one to report), while file sharing is largely done invisibly. The likelihood of being caught is drastically different.


As a smoker, I understand why non-smokers want smoke free places, that's great, that's cool, no problem. But why can't an establishment be created to cater just to us smokers? That's where i think the smoking bans go too far.

Eric M. Jones

"We are Borg. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile. If you attempt to intervene, we will destroy you."

Oh yeh, then there's that breathing air thing I like so much. After seeing a few friends of mine gasking for air like fishes out of water... they died the dirtiest death...it became clear.

Nicotine and Cocaine are virtually identical in the bloodstream. Think of nicotine as very filthy cocaine. The common notion that nicotine is harmless has to be smashed. I would smoke crack cocaine before I would go back to nicotine. It's much better for you and doesn't wreck the lungs.

Ref: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/270575.stm

P Middy

In Madison WI, the smoking ban went into place before the rest of the state. A lot of bar owners flipped out, saying they'd lose business when the cold came around and people did not want to be outside. No bars in town have closed due to the smoking ban. People still want to go and drink with friends and/or listen to live music. And now the State is following suit.

The reason its worked so effectively is that it only takes one phone call from a non-smoker in a place where the ban is being violated to get the bar owner fined. Owners don't want the hefty fine, so they enforce the law. People still want to drink and chill out, so they still go to bars.

Personally I love it, even though I enjoy a smoke or two while I drink. I just like not having to go home after a night out and immediately need to shower the stench off myself.

Oel Diar

Simple matter of percentages. Smokers lose in terms on numbers.


Why shouldn't bars/restaurants decide for themselves if they want to be smoke free? To me that is the optimal solution. Or will we just fall back into the smoking/non-smoking section routine?

Rob T

I just think it's going a bit far. I am a smoker I agree that non smokers have the right not to be around it. Well if that's your preference stay away. Easy as that. As far as the downloading thing goes, to costly to enforce and even if they wanted to would be very hard to catch everyone doing it.


Not only are smokers a minority but smokers who frequent bars and clubs are an even smaller minority. For most American smokers under 21 and over 40, the ban isn't much of a burden.


Wow, so many people are willing to pick on a minority group and make it illegal for them to go to bar, since the majority is in power.

does anyone recall when certain people had to shop outside store hours, enter the back of the restaraunt, rid the back of the bus... they were the minority then, and still are. get it..

its not a choice if you are addicted just like skin color. a-holes.

Emily W

Yeah, except that in the DC Metro area, all the smokers can go to northern VA and don't go to DC or Maryland. I don't know what the numbers are for what businesses are doing well, but that is a great example of nearby businesses not having to follow the same rules.


Smoking bans worked for similar reasons that pick-up-your-dog's-poop laws worked - the disgust response by a large fraction of the people. Disgust is a very strong motivator, it is very visceral. If it can be invoked it is very powerful in motivating behavior. It was relatively easy to convince non-smokers that smoke is not only smelly but harmful so they help enforce the ban. File sharing is like speeding or parking in the wrong place - it is not perceived as a real crime by many people so they look the other way.


@Rob T: In the same vein, smokers have the right to smoke. If you want to smoke, just stay away from the bars.
Your rights end where they start infringing upon mine (i.e. my right to breathe clean air).


Smoking rates have dropped dramatically, in the U.S. from 42% in 1965, to only 21% in 2006. The prevailing social norms weren't "weaker than we thought." They changed over time.


The reason why it is so easy to ban smoking in certain area is because a smoker can be easily caught smoking. Another facts that supports why smoking bans caught on so easily is because smokers count as a minority, approximately 30% of the world are smoker. It is certainly true that bars in places around the world would not have smokers and their costumer that smoke would definitely decreases but on the other hand it will attract more non-smoker. It is like a trade off since bars are giving up their smoker costumer for non-smoker, this trade off is beneficial because there is more non-smoker than smoker in the world. It is true that the amount of smoker will decrease but I believe that it not be a mayor effect because people go to bars mostly to drink therefore the smokers would got to bar and enjoy their time without smoking in the bar but they can still stand outside the bar enjoy their drinks and smoke as well.
However, restricting smoker's places where they can smoke would definitely affect the cigarette company because it is obvious that smokers would buy fewer cigarettes since they cannot smoke in many public places therefore decreasing smoker's chance of smoking. By decreasing the amount of places smoker can smoke it prevents second hand smoking, which saves people from lung cancer. Economically speaking the only one that loose in the smoking bans are the cigarette company including markets that sell them and the one's benefiting from this are the smoker because now they are spending less money to buy cigarette, average smoker spend 2,500 U.S dollars and waste 17 days a year. This means instead of using this 2,500 U.S dollar smoking they can spend on something more effective and instead of wasting 17 days smoking they can spend it on working, which they can earn up to 1,000 U.S dollars working 8 hours a day with a minimum wage of $7.25. Not to mention how much money non-smokers save without been infected of lung cancer caused by second hand smoking.