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3.6.09

Indoor smoking ban rejection sacrifices liberty for money

Courage never has been a long suit of politicians, and members of the Louisiana House yesterday showed they are no different when they caved in to protect – maybe – dollars over the rights of individuals by rejecting HB 844 by state Rep. Gary Smith that would have prevented smoking in every indoor establishment in Louisiana that served alcohol except Indian casinos.

At present, smoking indoors in public establishments that serve food can occur only at bars where less than half of their revenue comes from food service. Extending that ban to all bars and to commercial casinos, which like restaurants could continue to allow smoking and drinking in an outdoor setting, was argued against for two reasons, one that is illogical, and the other that is banal.

The illogical reason concerns the question of individual freedom. Many have been duped into believing that the law’s restrictions would somehow take away the “right” of people to smoke in bars, when it proposes no such thing. Smoking in outdoor settings at bars still would be permitted, so while the collection of venues at which to drink and smoke may be more limited, the activity still could be pursued.

There may be those who say they don’t want to do this in outdoor settings. Then they have another option, and that is not to smoke in an indoor setting. Nobody is putting a gun to their heads to make them smoke, and they still can enjoy the outing. Where the argument becomes absurd is when you get whiners, much like those who say they need more government services because they chose to have more children out of wedlock or to drop out of school, etc., who say they have to smoke and have others put up with it (if not subsidize the behavior).

And the ones “putting up” with the placing of the rights of those who choose to smoke indoors in bars ahead of their own are individuals who have no choice: people who because of illness are forced to use mechanical ventilation, and/or who have conditions like cystic fibrosis, emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and others, or even just allergies to tobacco smoke. These individuals (ironically, some having been heavy smokers in the past) cannot even go to bars now because an irritant like smoke can cause them immediate respiratory distress if not threaten their lives. This law would have allowed them access that those who promote smoking in bars selfishly currently deny them.

In other words, under HB 844, smokers would still have the choice to smoke in some bars, or to go to but not smoke in others; their ability to choose is unaffected. But individuals with pulmonary conditions under present law have no choice at all; they cannot go to bars at all because the “rights” or smokers, who can choose where to go or whether to smoke, are given priority over theirs when they cannot choose whether to have a pernicious disease.

Some might argue bars could voluntarily choose not to have smoking (in my entire life I have found exactly one place like this among the 50 countries I have been in) to attract these customers, but that is akin to the situation with the disabled prior to the Americans with Disabilities Act – almost no business voluntarily instituted accessible features or practices even at little or no cost, so to allow the disabled to lead even a partially normal existence in this facet of their lives the law was passed. The same applies here: bars think with an indoor smoking ban they may lose revenue (studies suggest it goes either way) so they won’t make the modification. Since rights now are in conflict – smoking indoors in a bar vs. granting access to a minority – government must adjudicate whose take precedence and the compassionate thing to do, which representatives choked on yesterday, would have been to assist those who cannot choose and thereby must suffer over those who are free to choose.

But lack of recognition that a ban would increase individual liberty (since smokers’ liberty would not be curtailed while that of those harmed by smoking would be increased, and there would be no burden placed on bar owners as a result of the ban) appeared not to be the only driving force behind rejection. With casinos serving drinks in gaming areas they would be covered under the proposal, some lawmakers feared with the ban less gambling would occur (addictions tend to go together) meaning reduced revenues to the state in a time of falling state collections. In other words, representatives shamefully sold out the rights of a vulnerable minority for money (and this is a particularly egregious offense for those who claim to be conservatives who argue government should promote equal opportunity).

Fortunately, SB 186 by state Sen. Rob Marionneaux remains alive in a House committee which does substantially the same thing as HB 844, with the added benefit that the Senate already wisely passed it. Let’s hope that many House members come to the proper understanding that a vote for SB 186 represents a net expansion of individual liberty, and to allow the current situation to continue unchanged lends support to tyranny over the freedoms over a minority that doesn’t deserve the situations they are in – which becomes a deplorable, gutless dereliction of responsibility if lack of support is because of fear of falling revenues.

6 comments:

Jim said...

Why not let the market decide? Business owners should be able to make their own decisions and people should be able to choose accordingly.

Marshall said...

LSU must be a socialist school. Last time I looked a bar or casino is private property, not public! So yes rights are being lost. The owner is denied the right to use or allow their guests to use a legal product on their property.

The feeble attempt to compare a smoking ban to the civil rights act or the Americans with disabilities act is down right ridiculous. Last time I looked neither smokers or none smokers are a protected class.
http://banthebanwisconsin.wordpress.com/2008/09/14/antis-dont-understand-rights/

John E. said...

Jeff,

In a country which has incrementally usurped the right of the individual for the good of the masses, I find it incredible that someone who normally champions rights, is defending this legislative abridging of rights. It is not a right for someone to enter a private business owner's establishment and demand that others stop a legal action for their benefit. As long as it it posted so they can know what can be expected when going into the building, then they can decide to enter or not. They do not have the right to be there, they are there by choice. Let the market be the deciding factor. I personally abhor smoking, but if the public wants smoking establishments then they will vote with their dollars and go there. If the demand is high enough, more places will open to draw in that crowd. If the people who would have "immediate respiratory distress" don't like it let them open their own place and run it as they wish.

Your double speak about how "a ban would increase individual liberty..." is both preposterous and quite sad. Government is not the answer. Remember that communism is the control of the tools and means of production. As we have repeatedly seen here in Louisiana, well meaning officials must be watched and their continued do-good actions must be rejected.

Randal from Shreveport said...

The only way to be consistent on this issue is for a person who believes that tobacco is horrible is to advocate the outright ban of tobacco. All of the nanny staters who just want what is best for us will never do that because of the money it puts in the state coffers. All of those people and Mr. Sadow are hypocrites.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Color me surprised at this entry.

Sorry, privately held establishments should be able to make their own rules about smoking within their private property. Post a sign outside that says "This establishment permits smoking" and be done with it. Those who do not like to be exposed to smoke, do not have to enter.

Since when have we become a society that allows governmental entities to tell a person what they can, and cannot do, within the confines of their own property?

This is no different than telling me I can't smoke in my car. If I do, you don't have to ride with me. No one has a gun to your head to force you to ride with me.

It would seem that our Constitution is being subjected to the Chinese water torture; one liberty lost, a drop at a time.

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