Tobacco, once the sustainer of American business may soon find itself thrown from the workplace altogether. Last week the Michigan House voted 73-31 to ban smoking in workplaces, with the exception of cigar bars, smoke shops, and three Detroit Casinos. This comes in the wake of recent bans passed by Wisconsin and the tobacco giant North Carolina. Altogether, over 30 states have passed similar legislation. The Michigan Senate has yet to approve the current bill before the state goes smoke free.
Though this legislation seems to be in the interest of public health, it is advancing at a great cost to society. There are market incentives in place to encourage employers to ban smoking without the government needing to intervene. Many businesses have already opted to ban workplace smoking to keep the cost of health care benefits down. The government mandates are weakening those motivations businesses do have to look after the welfare of their customers and employees. By using force to achieve their ends, state governments across the nation are sending the message that they will look after even the smallest issue of social welfare, relieving businesses of personal responsibility.
Interestingly enough, the Michigan legislation recognizes personal choice in the same bill that restrains it. By allowing smoking in certain tobacco retailers and casinos the state realizes that the employees of and visitors to these establishments have chosen to expose themselves to smoke, regardless of the effects on their health. There seems to be some disconnect in realizing that these same people have to make the exact same choice with every business, whether it be a smoke shop or a restaurant. Those people who want to eat dinner in a smoke free environment will seek one out, and those restaurants that want their business will provide one. No government assistance needed.
Adam Rule – MCPP Intern