We’re pleased the governor has such command of the epidemiologic literature. Usually, when politicians make such statements, they have little if any familiarity with the scientific research. Kaine should cite the empirical studies showing the health effects of bar and restaurant patrons’ occasional exposure to environmental tobacco smoke. We’re not aware of any such studies; even the much‐cited recent surgeon general’s report on secondhand smoke offered no statistical evidence of diminished health from occasional exposure. The findings on health effects that we’ve seen involve people who are chronically exposed to secondhand smoke — people such as the spouses and children of smokers who’ve had decades of regular, concentrated exposure.
The governor further claims that he has “clear and convincing” scientific evidence that a ban would decrease health risks and reduce “high” public costs. Can he tell us what those costs were and how they were calculated? How much will Virginia’s current trends in mortality and morbidity change as a result of his prohibition? Will he and state legislators promise to repeal the law if no such change materializes?
Of course, people have a right to avoid exposure to secondhand smoke, no matter what studies show. But they don’t have the right to force everyone else to live according to their preference. Fortunately, the world can accommodate their desires along with those of people who don’t mind tobacco smoke, just as it can accommodate people who like Chinese food and people who prefer hamburgers. Restaurant and bar owners want to make money, and they do so by catering to different market niches. In Northern Virginia, many restaurants and bars advertise that they are smoke‐free, while others cater to a smoking crowd. This offering of many different choices is a virtue of open markets. So why would Kaine override the smoking choices of different people and instead impose his preference on all Virginians?