Anti-smoking forces celebrated two big victories last week. The Washington, D.C., city council took the first step toward banning smoking in bars, restaurants and other indoor places, giving them until January 2007 to become completely smoke-free.
And almost simultaneously, Westin Hotels announced that, starting next month, it was banning all smoking indoors and at poolside at its 77 hotels. Guests who violate the ban will have a $200 cleaning fee added to their bill.
The Westin ban is potentially the more significant of the two. While the Washington ban smacks of nannyism, the Westin ban is motivated by the marketplace. The chain says 92 percent of its customers were requesting smoke-free rooms and got upset if none were available.
In the war on smoking, economic choices may well win more battles than societal disapproval ever did.