Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Smoking Bans

I think the South Carolina Supreme Court was right in its decision striking down criminal penalities for people who violate local smoking bans. It just seems silly to make something criminal that is not illegal to possess and use.

That said, I have never been a big fan of smoking bans. I am a big believer in both property rights and the laws of economics. If a man or woman works hard and raises the money to invest in an eating establishment, it should be up to them whether or not they allow smoking. Think on it.

Suppose some guy named Joe worked hard his entire life to save the money to invest in Joe Sixpack's Bar and Grill. He opens the place and chooses to ban smoking in it. So be it. Smokers can choose in the economy to spend their time elsewhere. The same would be true if Joe chose to allow smoking in his establishment. Non-smokers could choose to go elsewhere. That, folks, is freedom and capitalism. Having some government make the choice, no matter how good its intentions, infringes on Joe's right to invest his money and use his property as he chooses. It infringes on the awesome power of the free market and infringes upon economic development.

Of course, there are overwhelming policy concerns, and some say the legal act of smoking is among them. However, if an establishment meets the accepted health standards for food preparation, it ought to be up to that establishment to decide which legal substances, such as tobacco, can be used.

Some friends of mine point out how alchohol is regulated despite the fact it is legal. Establishments have to apply and get licenses to allow such use of a substance. While I think that is comparaing apples and oranges so to speak, since people can do things like smoke tobacco and drive without penalty, it does raise an interesting question. How is it that alcohol use, which has a greater effect upon the mind and frankly on the public safety, is merely regulated and tobacco use in establishments banned? Think on it. Bubba can go to Joe Six Pack's Bar and Grill and get hammered on Jack and coke, but the minute he lights up a Marlboro, the "progressives" get ready to lock him up. It does not matter that Bubba has a designated driver, the SOB lit up a Marlboro in a public place!

There is something fuzzy with that sort of "progressive" thinking, as there is with much of the new models for local governments in South Carolina today. Far too often, local elected officials do not do their homework and rely upon paid professional admininstrators to tell them how their local areas should be governed. Those paid professionals come out of the "progressive" public administration programs found at universities around the country. Those programs know a great deal about passing fads, such as "smoking is bad" and very little about things like economic laws and principles that created the wealth we enjoy. Thus, we get conflicted poliicies in which a substance that alters the mind far less is banned, and one that makes people dance naked on the Ravenel Bridge is merely regulated.

I just can not understand what those "progressives" fear about human beings having the freedom to choose their life's decisions. Here's a crazy idea. Let businesses allow people to smoke tobacco. Allow them to sell alcohol. If someone gets out of line, let him deal with the man. It is that simple. If you go to Joe Sixpack's and get drunk, it is your fault, not Joe Sixpack's. If you smoke all your life with big warnings on the side of the packs of tobacco you smoke, if you get cancer it is all on you. What the hell happened to personal responsiblity in this country? If I got diagnosed with cancer, I won't be suing Hav-a-Tampa. I won't blame Coors Light. I did it. I made my choices.

(I know some folks get diseases out of the blue, and I feel for them, but how the heck can we blame Joe Sixpack's bar and grill for our own acts or God's? Indeed, how can some government control acts by God, for you progressivs, fate?)

Of course, "progressives" and the arrogant folks that seem to make up local governments today can not live with that. They believe that they know best how to make your decisions in your life. Frankly, the think most people, their friends and neighbors, are just too stupid to choose wisely where to go to eat, where to work and how to act.

The next thing you know ole Joe at Joe Sixpack's Bar and Grill will be told he can not serve the mushroom chesseburger, the bacon chedder fries, or show any team on the televions in his establishment that have some sort of Native American mascot. Wait and see.

I say, light 'em if you have 'em, wear that Braves t-shirt and if you got a ride home, enjoy that cold beer with some fried chicken wings. But, if you eat the double layer chocolate cake everyday for ten years and wash it down with a real soft drink and some ice cream, don't blame the place that served you the food for your high blood sugar. Likewise, if you choose to work or hang out in a place that is smokefilled, don't blame the establishment if you get related health problems.

Instead, try something empowering. Take time to educate yourself and choose wisely where to work and where to play. Then, you won't have to sit around waiting on some complicated "progressive" to save you. You will have control of your own life. You do already. Each and every reader of this post has a helluva lot more control over his or her own life than they realize. Don't rely on government, make your own choices, those choices will create the world you want.


  1. You laid out some compelling arguments for keeping government out of private businesses, I'm still on the fence on this one. I also couldn't help but think that some of what you said makes a compelling argument for decriminalizing marijuana.

    "If you smoke all your life with big warnings on the side of the packs of tobacco you smoke, if you get cancer it is all on you."

    Well said.

  2. The issue that you have not addressed is the health of the folks who work at Joe Sixpack's Bar and Grill.

    Those in blue collar and service jobs – such as craft workers, laborers, hospitality workers, waitresses, bartenders, musicians, etc - are exposed to secondhand smoke in the workplace at a much higher rate than those who have white collar and government jobs.

    The folks who work in service jobs are often caught between a rock and a hard place. Yes, they choose to work there... but, all too often, their choices were limited.

    A college student who wants to work while attending college (or has to work to pay for college) has few job opportunties (that meet their need for a flexible schedule and that are qualified for) outside of waitress, bartender, or store clerk. If they want to work and earn money in order to better themselves, they often have to work in an environment that exposes them to secondhand smoke.

    A musician who wants to practice his/her craft and earn a living doing something that he/she is gifted at also doesn't have an option but to work in an environment that exposes them to secondhand smoke.

    A mother/father trying to make ends meet (who for whatever reason desperately needs a job, at least temporarily) often doesn't have an option but to work at a job that exposes them to secondhand smoke.

    The health of the workers was a key factor in banning smoking in white collar workplaces and government offices.

    The health of the workers and the patients was a key factor in banning smoking from hospitals and doctors officers.

    The health of the workers and the students was a key factor in banning smoking from our schools.

    The health of the members was a key factor in banning smoking at many churches.

    By the way, I am old enough to remember a time when people smoked at government offices, when doctors/nurses smoked in hospital rooms, when teachers smoked in the classroom, and when pastors smoked in the pulpit.

    I know that you may want to poo-poo the dangers of secondhand smoke. But, the dangers are all too real. There is clear evidence linking secondhand smoke to asthma, to lung cancer, and to heart disease among nonsmoking adults.

    You brought up the subject of alcohol. Think about it this way. Drunk driving is illegal... why? Not because it is "bad" for the drunk!!! Drunk driving is illegal because of the danger posed by that drunk driver to other people.

    I think advocates for smokefree workplaces look at their issue in a similar light. They seek to ban smoking in the workplace - not to protect the smoker from themselves - but to protect others from the smoker's secondhand smoke.