Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Anti-Smoking Law -- PJM

Mike Skinner and Robert Foster make a good case in today's Omaha World-Herald Midlands Voices column as to why the Governor should veto the newly passed smoking ban (an act which will, no doubt, be overridden). But more importantly, this whole anti-smoking regulatory issue is based in total hypocrisy. If smoking and second hand smoke is such an evil, why don't lawmakers simply outlaw the substance as they do any illegal drugs? Why don't lawmakers quit subsidizing the production of the crop and make it illegal to grow just as it is illegal to grow marijuana? Why don't lawmakers quit relying on tobacco taxes to augment their state and federal revenues? Of course, government tried that with another drug called alcohol back in the late 1920's and it didn't work so now folks go to bars and restaurants where alcohol, a legal product, is served. Of course, alcohol fumes don't tend to make other non-drinkers sick although one suspects teetotalers might decide not to patronize those places that serve it. On the other hand, those that drink are responsible for a huge percentage of accidents that kill and injure thousands every year. If one wants to save 40,000 deaths a year, and appease the global warming advocates and Al Gore, why not just outlaw the automobile?

What one should realize is that with each new law that the government passes, more and more of his rights become subject to restriction. Currently, the Nebraska legislature is looking at statewide bans on selling spray paint cans to minors, requiring fingerprints and copies of your drivers license in order to sell junk metal to dealers, setting up a commission to decide what guns can and can't be sold in the state, deciding on whether and how to test home schooled children and it goes on and on. It has already restricted Nebraskans' ability, over the governor's veto, to circulate petitions and place initiatives on the ballot. Some states and cities now ban the serving of certain foods in restaurants and in one state a bill was introduced to prevent restaurants from serving fat people. In a recent case in California, a couple has been ordered to cut down two of their decades-old redwood trees because someone bought a house next door seven years ago and finds they can't get enough light to make their recently installed solar panels work.

The citizen should beware that at a certain point personal responsibility ends, personal rights are diminished and eroded and state regulation governs more and more, if not virtually all, of the activities of his life. Whether it be the right of the state to prevent a business owner from making decisions, as is the case with smoking, or whether it be the right of the state to take away an individual's property so someone can build a higher tax-revenue producing one on the site, it's the rights of an individual, business owner and citizen that are eroded by these laws that rob one of personal responsibility for the benefit of the "collective good". It is frightening and something all would be wise to consider.

(Acknowledgement: The author smokes a few cigars a month at cigar friendly places or outside, but also choose not to go to smokey bars or restaurants--he makes the choice)


Midlands Voices Liberty comes first; veto the smoking ban
BY J. MICHAEL SKINNER AND ROBERT A. FOSTER The writers live in Omaha. Skinner, a smoker, is CEO of a financial planning firm. Foster, a nonsmoker, is president of a prescription-drug management company.

The rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” are enshrined not only in the Declaration of Independence but also in the Constitution of the State of Nebraska. Freedom of assembly and commerce are also important concepts in the founding documents of our country.

We believe these principles apply to the smoking debate. In response to the statewide smoking ban, we respectfully urge a veto by the governor and humbly request that the Legis­lature not override it.

Here’s why: The market works — more slowly than a ban, but it works.

In the two years prior to the partial smoking ban in Omaha, in response to customer de­mand, Shir­ley’s Diner went nonsmok­ing on Sunday mornings, as did Vidlak’s Brookside Ca­fé. Louie M’s Burger Lust moved smok­ing from the larger to the smaller of its rooms, and Mira­cle Hills Café and Coffee banned smoking. Nearly all chains banned it; almost every new restaurant and some bars opened nonsmoking.

Ultimately, most places would have been nonsmoking, with a few left over for smok­ers, business owners and em­ployees to freely pursue their rights to freedom of assembly, commerce, liberty and the pur­suit of happiness.

Believe it or not, it makes some people happy to smoke— particularly on a Sunday morn­ing with breakfast, a cup of cof­fee and The World-Herald on the table.

The public health argument holds water in coerced situa­tions, i.e., the Qwest Center, government offices, etc. We support smoking bans in those types of places. In noncoerced situations, however, we believe the public health argument is negated by freedom of assem­bly and the right to engage in commerce.

A free society is ordered in such a way that people are free to assemble and engage in the commerce they wish. Those who don’t wish, don’t go. For the most part, our society already operates this way; i.e., we all choose not to patronize some businesses for various reasons. We respectfully and humbly submit to our fellow citizens that we have no right to go into a restaurant and be served in the way and environment we wish. If the music is too loud, we can ask management to turn it down so it does not damage our hear­ing.

But if the owner declines, we have no right to force him.

The owner’s right to operate a business as he sees fit and tar­get customers accordingly trumps our right to a quiet ex­perience. We believe the same principle applies to smoking. Exactly the same public health argument can be made about loud music in bars. But we believe nobody wants that banned, because people can generally hear the loud music upon entering and choose accordingly.

Therefore we believe the same approach should be taken with smoking: The only law needed is to make sure that peo­ple know what they are get­ting. Require business to put up a door sign saying “Smok­ing Allowed” or “Smoking Not Allowed.” Then people can choose for themselves. That is the way a free society operates.

If the owner of a restaurant wants to allow smoking, the em­ployees knowingly choose to pursue or keep their employ­ment there and the customers choose to patronize it.

Many will say that we live in a democracy and the majority should rule. But we respect­fully submit that we live in a constitutional republic, which by its very definition protects the minority against what Alexis de Tocqueville called the “tyranny of the majority.”

Indeed, if the conditions of liberty in noncoerced situations are to be determined by the ma­jority rather than the conse­quences of the abuse of that lib­erty, then liberty effectively loses its meaning. This is our most important point.

Securing and preserving in­dividual liberty was of para­mount importance to our found­ers. That liberty has brought us unrivaled prosperity and abun­dance. Our Legislature, gover­nor and courts are privileged to be the guardians of that liberty; so dear a price was paid for it. Protecting it should be their highest principle and utmost duty.

We believe that this legisla­tion and most of its supporters are well-intentioned, but it is imprudent and takes us in a dan­gerous direction. We must al­ways remember that Friedrich Hayek’s “road to serfdom” is paved with good intentions. We have no right to go into a restaurant and be served in the way and environment we wish.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree 100% with everything you say here, but the alarming and discouraging thing to me is that so many people don’t see the loss of freedoms and the encroachment of government regulation as a problem. There is no doubt in my mind that, unless people take this more seriously, in 20 years the level of government regulation and interference in our daily lives and the freedoms we take for granted will make this country almost unrecognizable. This election represents more movement in that direction - more regulation and government sponsorship of health care, more taxes, more liberal judges.

We should all be encouraging to Sen Lautenbaugh and others who have voted against the smoking ban.

Anonymous said...

Again, I am in totally agreement with you. As I always say, I vote with my wallet. That is the only one that counts. We don’t need another law.

Anonymous said...

I am giddy that smoking has been banned in public places in the whole state. For me, it has nothing to do with health. It is the absolute stink and rudeness of the morons who feel it is a right to smoke at my expense. There is no right to smoke (it is not in the constitution, just like abortion) and it is a legitimate function of LOCAL government to regulate activities of businesses in this state. Just like closing hours of bars. Just like prostitution. Just like topless dancing in bars. Or smoking in church or grocery stores. Or elevators. If you don't want to ride the elevators, I suppose you could walk up whatever number of floors necessary to reach the top. I don't see the abomination and outrage over enforcing noise ordinances or driving regulations. All are legitimate functions of LOCAL government.

The whole compromise of allowing smoking if the bar had Keno was laughable. Gambling is evil, but all of a sudden, we're concerned about the lack of revenue if people don't play in Omaha! Gimme a break! If we were so concerned about gambling revenue, why didn't the same people who opposed the smoking ban approve a Venetian for Downtown?

I like cigars, too. I only smoke them outside so I don't ruin somebody elses good time.

If this were the FEDERAL government, I would be totally opposed to this. Different argument.

What I don't get is why we have to wait until June of 2009 to get relief. If people had the intelligence and concern for the enjoyment of others around them, it wouldn't be necessary to pass the law.

Please feel free to share this with the dope addicts.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your article as I did with Skinner's.

You must be as out of your mind angry as I and other REAL conservatives are now that the Governor has signed the idiotic individual rights bill. (Welsch and his ilk call it the non-smoking bill). How is it that our state has elected such a sickeningly liberal legislature? What in the world are these people trying to accomplish? This legislature reminds me of too many of the kids working our cash registers today, who can not make change without the register figuring it out for them. In other words, they and our legislature don't know how to think, process, or evaluate consequences of actions!! Is this what we get when we pay so poorly?

Our entire state should be ashamed of who we have elected to represent us in Lincoln. I know I am.

I'm really frightened when I consider what the legislature might do with the state budget.

I am frightened, embarrassed and ashamed.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your article as I did with Skinner's.

You must be as out of your mind angry as I and other REAL conservatives are now that the Governor has signed the idiotic individual rights bill. (Welsch and his ilk call it the non-smoking bill). How is it that our state has elected such a sickeningly liberal legislature? What in the world are these people trying to accomplish? This legislature reminds me of too many of the kids working our cash registers today, who can not make change without the register figuring it out for them. In other words, they and our legislature don't know how to think, process, or evaluate consequences of actions!! Is this what we get when we pay so poorly?

Our entire state should be ashamed of who we have elected to represent us in Lincoln. I know I am.

I'm really frightened when I consider what the legislature might do with the state budget.

I am frightened, embarrassed and ashamed.

Anonymous said...

That makes sense. I don't go to a smoking room and get outraged when someone smokes. I don't go to a stock car race and complain about the noise. However, when I go to some other public place for any other activity in the world, I do get outraged when I can't do that activity without having to smell someone's stink.

By the way, tobacco stores are exempt. That would be over the top and unreasonable to go to a tobacco store and object to someone smoking.

I guess it has to do with one's expectations. A tobacco room or store could reasonably viewed as a tabacco safehaven, but not a bar. Bar patrons have not cornered the smoking market like tobacco stores.

Smokers can still enjoy what a bar or restaurant has to offer and smoke outside when the urge consumes them. Non-smokers cannot enjoy what a bar or restaurant has to offer at all if smoking is permitted. There is no escape from it unless you go outside permanently.

Anonymous said...

Didn’t we try the same thing with “prohibition” how did that work out? Sometimes the “cure” is worse than the “disease”.