Truth to Power

Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em

Dutch treat (smoking edition)

Can put-upon minorities wage battle against government regulators and win? In the Netherlands, at least when it comes to smoking bans, the answer appears to be “yes.” After a year of widespread defiance of a law banning smoking in bars and cafes, and two court victories by bar owners, the Dutch government is backing off enforcement of the intrusive ban and effectively letting many smaller businesses set policies that work for them and their customers.

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.

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.</em>

Amazing. Being able to do what you will with your own business. Wonder when that will get to the US?


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