My Two Cents: Proposed smoking ban goes to far

“No tendency is quite so strong in human nature as the desire to lay down rules of conduct for other people.”

William Howard Taft, 27th president of the United States (1857-1930)

Forget the Patriot Act when it comes to curtailing civil liberties. The real threat to freedom in this country is through increasingly draconian smoking bans.

I say this in light of the fact that next month the Tacoma-Pierce County Board of Health is considering a resolution to prohibit smoking in bars, restaurants and all other indoor public places in Pierce County.

As readers of this column well know, I am not a smoker and I am not particularly fond of the smoke generated by the habit. In fact, I support smoking bans in public buildings such as courthouses. I am also in favor of smoking being prohibited on airline flights. (Is there anything more annoying than being trapped in a smoke-filled tube 30,000 feet in the air?)

However, I believe the board of health’s plan to outlaw smoking in all private establishments such as bars and restaurants goes to far in a free country such as ours. This, of course, is nothing new, as earlier this year, both houses of the state Legislature considered bills that would do the same thing on a statewide basis. Lest you think I’m being paranoid or making a slippery slope argument, California, New York and Delaware, as well as 60 localities, have passed such legislation.

As I’ve said before, I’m troubled by the idea of such heavy-handed government intrusion into the private sector. Shouldn’t the owners of private businesses be allowed to decide for themselves if they want to allow smoking in their establishments?

For their part, politicians in favor of such a ban say they are protecting people from second hand smoke. But are they really? Consider the fact that about 70 percent of the approximately 1,000 licensed restaurants in Pierce County are smoke-free.

Why force the minority of private businesses – bars, taverns, bowling alleys – to go smoke-free? People are quite capable of deciding for themselves what type of establishment they’d like to patronize. The good intentions of the politicians aside, I think the quote at the top of this column offers a more probable explanation.

“My Two Cents” is a weekly column where the author – who wishes to be spared from a government that wants to save me from myself – gets in his two cents worth in spite of the old saying that you only get a penny for your thoughts.