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Smoking Bans: Prohibition Revisited

March 24, 2006

Joseph L. Bast ( is president of The Heartland Institute.

Joseph L. Bast ( is president of The Heartland Institute. The following letter was sent to The Los Angeles Times on March 24, 2006

Dear Editor:

Jane Engle's article about the spread of smoking bans ["Smoking bans gain worldwide favor, including at Disneyland hotels," March 19] was misleading in two ways. First, it made no mention of the thousands of proposed smoking bans that have been defeated by concerned citizens who see them as unnecessary violations of individual freedom and private property rights. Second, it did not mention the hundreds of millions of dollars being spent by the anti-smoking movement to demonize smokers and tobacco products.

Smoking bans are not just appearing spontaneously, the result of people suddenly deciding that smoking is unhealthy or that second-hand smoke is a danger to nonsmokers. They are the outcome of a deliberate campaign to shape public opinion by exaggerating health threats and ignoring values such as self-responsibility and privacy.

There is nothing inevitable about the spread of smoking bans, and it is entirely likely that we will look back on the recent spate of bans with guilt and remorse, just as alcohol Prohibition is now viewed as having been a deadly mistake.

Joseph L. Bast
Chicago, Illinois

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Joseph Bast is a Senior Fellow at The Heartland Institute. He cofounded Heartland in 1984, serving as executive director then as president & CEO until January 2018. His research and writing focuses on climate change and energy policy. @JosephLBast