NYS SMOKING BAN IS TOO MUCH
I hate tobacco. But I love freedom. And that is the dilemma.
I am not willing to fight one by sacrificing the other. No matter how worthy the cause.
Some background. When I was 8 they gave us a talk in school about how many years we would take off our lives if we smoked cigarettes. So I sat there dutifully at my little desk and calculated when my mother would die.
Then I went to her and made a presentation and a request. I told her she would die when she was young and I would be left alone and I wanted her to stop smoking.
She, of course, did not. And she, of course, did die young. My children never really got to know her. They grew up without their grandmother. Just as I grew up without my grandfather. I also lost an uncle to smoking, and my younger brother is even now on oxygen 24 hours a day. Emphysema is our family tradition.
And smoking is the cause.
So I hate it. It breaks my heart. The Devil must have laughed when he tempted the first savages millennia ago to pluck a leaf and dry it and inhale its smoke. And he must laugh still as hundreds of millions around the world commit slow suicide by doing the same thing today.
I hate what smoking does. And I hate being around it. The slightest whiff is sickening to me. Loathsome. People who smoke smell, people who are around smoke smell, people who walk past smokers smell. It almost gags me, even though I was in it constantly while I was growing up.
And I think public smoking should be limited.
I think businesses that allow smoking should also have non-smoking facilities that truly offer clean air. I don’t want to eat, drink or work around smoke. And I think it is reasonable for the government, in the name of public health, to make sure I don’t have to.
But there is a middle ground.
And New York State has gone too far.
It has outlawed public smoking. In a ban that took effect almost nine years ago, indoor smoking is essentially prohibited anywhere but in private residences. No smoking in bars, no smoking in restaurants, no smoking in pool halls and bowling alleys. None.
If somebody wanted to open Bill’s Smoking Bar, and employ only smokers and cater only to smokers and welcome only smokers, it would be against the law. If a business or club wanted to spend a gazillion dollars and put in a high-tech ventilation system to create a smoking room where smokers could be completely isolated from non-smokers, it would be against the law.
For going on a decade, no public smoking has meant no public smoking.
And that’s too far.
Forced righteousness is a sin.
And while there may be a government interest in promoting the public health, there is a far greater government interest in protecting freedom.
We didn’t start shooting Red Coats in order to form a paternalistic government which could compel us to make wise health decisions. We started shooting Red Coats because we wanted to be free. We are a nation dedicated to liberty, not regulation and compulsion. And in all our public policy the first and ultimate consideration must be freedom.
And the goal of banning public smoking in New York – no matter how beneficial or well-intended – is a fundamental assault on freedom. It is ridiculous to claim that the American government can so regulate American choice that the cigarette is banned completely from public life.
There must be a middle ground.
There must be a way to protect the interests of both, smokers and non-smokers. Since the inception of the New York ban, smokers have been pushed outside, in the rain and the snow, like second-class citizens. It is not accommodation, it is tyranny. And it isn't right. It is both rude and unfair. And it certainly isn't free.
Smokers and business owners have been denied basic rights and courtesies. Instead of accepting this as the way it will forever be, we should ask if we really wanted to go this far. We must find an accommodation.
The middle ground.
I don’t want anybody to smoke.
But I want to convince them to be smokeless, not compel them to be smokeless. I want to fight this evil without unleashing one of my own.
I want to honor health and liberty. And we must. Because you can’t do the right thing the wrong way. Not if you want to be principled.
I hate tobacco. But I love freedom.
And there is no dilemma. Not if there is common sense, courtesy and consideration.
Smoking can be pushed further from public life, but it should not be extinguished. At least not by government dictate.
Better that the fight against tobacco go forward through education, not legislation.
- by Bob Lonsberry © 2012