Dialogue on the Merits of Smoking Bans:
Today's Washington Post reports that a proposed smoking ban in DC restaurants and bars is gaining ground. I have conflicting views on the proposed smoking ban. The debate in my head goes something like this:
  CON: I can't believe DC wants to ban smoking in restaurants and bars. Does the government need to regulate everything? Why can't they just let restaurants and people do what they want?
  PRO: Your ideological preconceptions are blinding you to something important. Being around smoke is a big annoyance for many non-smokers; the smell is very unpleasant, and non-smokers often need to pay to get their clothes dry-cleaned to get the smell out. The smoking ban is about stopping smokers from inflicting those costs and harms on innocent non-smokers.
  CON: But we can let the market decide this. If some people want to smoke, they can go to a smoking bar or restaurant. If some people want to go to a place than bans smoking, some businesses will ban smoking on their own volition to cater to that audience. The market will adjust to have some smoking places and other non-smoking places. It's a win-win.
  PRO: That sounds good in theory. But you're missing the fact that decisions to go to a particular restaurant or bar are usually group decisions, in which the least offensive option for the group wins out. Smokers usually are addicted to nicotine; if given the choice between a smoking place and a non-smoking place, they will voice a very strong preference for the smoking place. Non-smokers may strongly prefer going to a non-smoking place, but they'll voice less objection about going to a smoking place because it's not a chemical addiction for them. This means that even if most individual people prefer a non-smoking place, most groups will choose smoking places, and most bars will permit smoking.
  CON: I think you're basing that argument on a paternalistic value judgment about the merits of smoking, though. If a group makes a collective decision to go to Smoking Bar A instead of Non-smoking Bar B, it presumably means that the members of that group on the whole are happier at A than at B. Non-smokers may be a little bit annoyed by being around smokers, but that annoyance is outweighed by the pleasure the smokers get from smoking. It sounds like you're valuing the views of non-smokers more than those of smokers; you discount the latter because to you they are just "feeding an addiction."
  PRO: Maybe. But is that illegitimate? After all, an addiction could be defined as something that a person feels compelled to do repeatedly even if they realize it is against their best interests. Given that, I'm not sure it's unfair to treat nicotine urges as a less valued set of preferences than a non-smoker's preference to be in a smoke-free environment.
  CON: What's next? Are you going to ban smoking altogether, even in private homes? I don't know where your principle stops.
  PRO: Ah, the dreaded slippery slope argument. There's a good case for limiting the ban to bars and restaurants, actually. Bars and restaurants are enclosed spaces where people are physically close to others they don't know. Smokers often ask their friends if they mind them smoking before lighting up, as smokers realize that many non-smokers are annoyed by the practice. The smoking ban would just extend the same courtesy to strangers.
  CON: That's not quite right, though. The proposed ban wouldn't just give non-smokers veto power. It imposes a ban that all smokers must follow even if everyone in the bar or restaurant wants to smoke. That interferes too much with personal choice for my taste.
  So who has the stronger argument, PRO or CON? And what arguments are they missing? I have enabled comments. As always, civil and respectful comments only.

  UPDATE: I should point out that I intentionally avoided the secondhand-smoke-is-dangerous argument and the bans-hurt-businesses argument because both are at bottom scentific/empirical questions that I am not equipped to answer or evaluate. Strong evidence in support of or against these arguments would shift the debate considerably, but my understanding is that the evidence on both issues presently is inconclusive.