Sunday, February 06, 2005

NEW YORK TIMES -- Smoking ban: Much ado about nothing?

Posted by Craig Westover | 10:06 AM |  

The Pioneer Press reprints a New York Times story today entitled “Smoking ban: Much ado about nothing?” which not surprisingly, takes that stance that indeed it is. Admist long blocs of copy supportive of the ban are intermingled short head-nod-to-balance paragraphs saying some critics disagree.

Nothing new here. But here’s a tell-tale-paragraph that really points out why I, and non-smokers like me ought to be, so riled up about smoking bans. From the Times:
But a vast majority of bar and restaurant patrons interviewed last week, including self-described hard-core smokers, said they were surprised to find themselves pleased with cleaner air, cheaper dry-cleaning bills and a new social order created by the ban. [Emphasis added.]
Is creating "a new social order” the proper role of government?

It’s not when it comes to imposing harsher penalties on crack cocaine (drug of choice among low-income people of color) than on powdered cocaine (drug of choice for white urban professionals).

It’s not when it comes to enforcing autonomous individual rights in abortion matters (Roe v. Wade) or striking down sodomy laws (Lawrence v. Texas). [Note: Whether pro-choice or pro-life, if you’ve never read the Roe v. Wade decision, frankly, you shouldn’t be commenting on it. A personal peeve. Forgive me.]

The point is, smoking in quasi-public private establishments entails the same basic fundamental rights upon which the latter two examples are based. You can’t damage the principle in one place without violating it in another.

You may not give a damn about the smoking issue, but you should be concerned if legal penalties are used for social engineering, not public protection. You should care when autonomous action, however intimate, can be trumped by public policy.

You should care when individual rights are trumped in favor of reduced dry-cleaning bills.