A toast to the Netherlands

Today is a good day for small bars in the Netherlands:

From today smokers in Holland will be allowed to light up in small owner-operated bars that are less than 753.5 square feet in size and have no other staff.

The 280 cases currently going through court for pubs allowing people to smoke inside will be dropped.

UKIP MEP for the North West Nuttall said he was “very pleased that the Netherlands authority has allowed common sense to prevail” and relax the ban.

“We know the smoking ban has had a serious detrimental effect on pubs,” he said. “It is absolutely bonkers.

“The way the ban came in was very underhand.

“I hope the Government will take what has happened in Holland on board. I hope it will happen here.

“We should have the option for smoking rooms in the UK, it should be down to the licensee.”

You know what to do.

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Beating the ban

Thanks to a couple of pro-property rights court rulings and unified resistance to the national smoking ban, Dutch bar and cafe owners have successfully fought back against the intrusive law. J. D. Tuccille explains:

The key to the apparent victory appears to be cooperation. Bars and cafes across the country coordinated their defiance of the smoking ban after business dropped by as much as 30% in the wake of the law’s passage. To lure back customers who wanted cigarettes with their drinks, bars put the ashtrays back on the tables.

First-hand accounts even had bar patrons using table-top candle holders for their ashes in establishments that didn;t want tomake their defiance too obvious.

The Dutch government fined hundreds of establishments, but couldn’t break the back of the resistance.

The law suffered perhaps fatal setbacks when courts ruled that the the government had no authority to impose total bans on small establishments that had no staff when it let larger businesses designate smoking areas. Another court ruled in favor of a bar owner who designated a store room as the (non-smoking) bar and the rest of the establishment as a smoking area.

Now, Dutch bar and cafe owners are free — at least for the time being — to establish rules that attract customers and suit their businesses.

Unfortunately, courts in the US haven’t been nearly as willing to protect the property rights of bar owners, making such civil disobedience less likely to pay off here.

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The future of smoking

This is depressing: Foreign Policy rounds up a list of the next countries likely to implement national smoking bans. Costa Rica, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, and China are all on the list. It does note that Germany, at least, is backing away from its ban, so the trend isn’t entirely in one direction.

Regardless of your personal preferences, where do you see the future of smoking regulation in the US? Have we reached a tipping point that will inevitably make smoking socially unacceptable? Or will the increasingly untenable and bizarre claims made by anti-smoking groups propel the movement over the shark, allowing smokers and property rights defenders to push back?

I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that, regardless of legal changes, old-fashioned pipe smoking will see a resurgence.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section.

[Via TMN.]

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