One aspect of the smoking ban which always seems particularly unreasonable is the prohibition of private clubs permitting smoking, something brought up the other day in the comments. Even if you take all the arguments about health and the protection of employees at face value (which of course I don’t), why in principle should a group of adult smokers, and tolerant non-smokers, not be allowed to set up a private licensed club where they could socialise, in the full knowledge of the potential risks they were exposing themselves to? Obviously under-18s would be strictly barred, and to prevent it having a wider appeal you could prevent the club selling food beyond crisps and nuts, or charging admission for entertainment. You could also prevent non-members being “signed in”, so nobody could visit on impulse.
Maybe it should also be a condition that such a smoking club could have no paid employees, with all the work done by the members on a voluntary basis – although, realistically, given that there are many jobs that involve a far greater and more demonstrable risk to health than working in a smoky club, I don’t see why there shouldn’t be paid employees. After all, in my experience a considerable majority of bar staff are smokers anyway.
Nobody who found smoking unpleasant or offensive or felt it was a risk to their health would ever need to cross the threshold of such an establishment. Nobody could claim it was the only place in town you could get a meal. I really can’t see how any reasonable person could object. If you don’t like kinky sex, you don’t go to fetish clubs. If you don’t like smoke, you don’t go to smoking clubs. Simple.
But perhaps the reason it’s not allowed is not philosophical principle, but the fear that such smoking clubs would become embarrassingly popular amongst non-smokers as well as smokers, thus taking away the vaunted “level playing field” for other businesses, and exposing the hollowness of claims that the ban enjoys overwhelming support. As I said in a previous post, in many spheres the way people vote with their feet can be much more significant than how they cast their ballot.