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Marriott Goes Smoke-Free:

The Marriott hotel chain will no longer allow smoking in any of its guest rooms, according to this report. Interestingly, the decision appears to have been motivated by Marriott's concern for the bottom line.

Two decades ago, about half the company's rooms were set aside for smokers, but demand has steadily dropped, with only 5 percent of customers now requesting smoking rooms. At the same time, complaints about cigarette odor have increased, and company officials have struggled to address the issue.

Marriott, which will enforce its ban by charging violators $200 to $300, follows that of the Westin Hotels & Resorts chain, which late last year announced it was making all 77 of its properties smoke-free. Since then, business has grown stronger, said Sue Brush, a senior vice president with Westin, which is owned by Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide Inc.

An interesting question is how this decision will affect activist campaigns to impose local smoking bans in various parts of the country. Smoking ban advocates will cite Marriott's decision as evidence that banning smoking is not bad for business. Yet in my opinion this decision is evidence that service companies are respnsive to changes in consumer preferences and demands. Marriott's decision was driven by market pressures, specifically by a recognition that it was more costly to try and accomodate both smokers and non-smokers than to go smoke-free. Similalrly, many restaurants and bars have banned or limited smoking because they would prefer to attract non-smoking patrons. The point is that if a substantial percentage of consumers want smoke-free accomodations, enough businesses should respond to satisfy that preference. And, if the rate of change is too slow for some, I would recommend than smoking-ban proponents devote their resources to pressuring firms to adopt smoking limitations, instead of lobbying for legislative smoking bans than deny a singificant portion of people (the 20 percent or so of Americans who still smoke) the opportunity to seek accomodations that meet their preferences. I quit smoking cigarettes years ago, and enjoy smoke-free restaurants, but I see no need to impose my preferences on others through legislative fiat.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. More on Smoking Bans:
  2. Marriott Goes Smoke-Free:
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More on Smoking Bans:

As a follow-up to my post below on Marriott's decision to eliminate smoking rooms, let me provide more fodder for deabte. First, here is Thomas Lambert's "The Case Against Smoking Bans" available on SSRN. The abstract reads as follows:

In recent months, numerous localities and states have banned smoking in public places (i.e., privately owned places to which members of the public are invited). Such sweeping bans are typically justified on grounds that they alleviate externalities, shape individuals' preferences in a desirable manner, and reduce risks. This essay rebuts the externality, preference-shaping, and risk-reduction arguments for smoking bans and contends that such bans are unnecessary and, on the whole, utility-reducing.
For a somewhat different perspective, readers may want to look at the Surgeon General's new report "The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke." This report summarizes the research to date on secondhand smoke, and concludes, among other things, that a) secondhand smoke poses a health risk to non-smokers, b) there is no risk-free level of exposure, and c) the most effective way to prevent exposure is to prevent smoking.

The Surgeon General's findings do not necessarily lead to the conclusion that governments should adopt indoor smoking bans. We allow people to smoke and eat fatty foods and engage in many other risky activities (such as, in some states, ride motorcycles without helmets), under the assumption that individuals should be able to decide for themselves whether the risks are worth the benefits of the activity in question. One could decide to treat secondhand smoke in private estalbishments the same way. Consumers can decide whether they wish to frequent those places that allow smoking — they can decide whether the food, ambiance, noise level, trendiness, NFL Ticket subscription, pick-up scene, or whatever is worth the marginal risk. The same is true for workers. The Surgeon General notes that entertainment and hospitality industry is the only sector in which workers face signficant exposures to secondhand smoke. This would suggest that even workers have choice in deciding whether exposure to secondhand smoke is worth the compensation they receive. No job or leisure activity is risk-free. The relevant policy question, in my view, is whether, and under what conditions, the government should prevent individuals from making certain trade-offs in their personal and professional lives.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. More on Smoking Bans:
  2. Marriott Goes Smoke-Free:
64 Comments