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Bad news from Bavaria that a referendum has voted by a 61% to 39% margin to impose a complete smoking ban in bars and restaurants. Some may hail this as democracy in action, but I had always thought that a fundamental principle of democracy was respect for the rights of minorities. Voting may be a good system for choosing MPs and councillors, but should voters be allowed to impose their own lifestyle preferences on others?

If you’re fond of the pongy ale, but most of the customers in your local pub prefer lager, should they be allowed to vote that everyone should drink lager?

Or, given that a large majority of people are heterosexual, would they be entitled to vote to outlaw homosexuality?

The report also shows the fallacious “level playing field” argument being trotted out again. In reality this is more of a “dog in the manger” argument. Surely hospitality businesses are entitled to offer a range of services and facilities as they see fit, and stand or fall as to how popular those prove with the paying public. If businesses with smoking bans feel disadvantaged because those permitting smoking do better, doesn’t that demonstrate that there is little genuine public demand for the bans? The real test of public opinion is not so much how people cast their ballots, but how they vote with their feet.