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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

I apologize for the long hiatus since my last post. I've had this story on my desk for weeks, but the sheer brilliance of it finally brought me back to this blog.

New York City's first completely non-smoking apartment building will soon open at 1510 Lexington Avenue. Residents will be prohibited from smoking both inside and within the immediate outside perimeter of the building.

This story might upset a lot of people - after all, the building is banning a legal activity. However, allow me to explain my positive excitement over this news.

The government did not have a finger in this decision. This is not a public housing project. Rather, this is a private, family-owned apartment building that saw unmet market demand for smoke-free housing. CBS New York reported:

And even with a surplus of apartments on the market, Kenbar [Management] feels theirs will be in demand. Backing that up was a Zogby poll in July, which found that 58 percent of New Yorkers would be willing to pay more for a smoke-free home.
If you want to be free to smoke in your apartment - fine, live someplace else.

All levels of government can learn a valuable lesson from this story. There is no need to force private businesses to ban smoking in their establishments. If a market for smoke-free establishments exist, the private sector will respond to it. The government will cause more harm than good by intervening in these matters that lie outside its proper scope.

For example, Ireland's smoking ban in pubs has been highly lauded around the world. However, it is not as widely known that in the first year of the smoking ban, over 100 pubs went out of business. According to Stephen Kelly, chief executive of the Federation of Retail Licensed Trade:
The much-promoted view that non-smokers would be rushing to premises has not materialised. We expect another 100 to close next year.
If non-smokers want to spend their money only at smoke-free establishments, the private market will react far more appropriately than the government in taking actions to accept their money. Government intervention is tailored to only meet the needs of the majority (or, more specifically, the majority of the electorate). The private market, on the other hand, meets the needs of every individual - an incomprehensible concept to supporters of big government.