The Ever-Widening Smoking Ban
The concept of public smoking bans, in my opinion, really gives you an insight into the psyche of a person. This is one of those issues that really separates those who believe in smaller-government-enforcing-their-own-biases from those who truly believe in smaller government and private property rights. I see a true protector of private property rights in a guy like Doug, of Below the Beltway. Doug doesn’t like smoke, to the point where being around it even makes him ill. But he doesn’t accept the idea of government forcing businesses to change the terms of business on their own property. Despite what the Virginia Senate has to say about it:
Nonetheless, this is the closest Virginia has come to banning smoking in any form and it does not bode well for the future. One or two elections more, and the fate of a bill like this in the House of Delegates could be quite different. And the breadth and scope of the proposed ban is really quite extraordinary:
The Virginia ban would include banks, bars, educational facilities, health care facilities, hotel and motel lobbies, laundromats, public transportation, reception areas, retail food production and marketing establishments, retail services establishments, retail stores, shopping malls, sports arenas, theaters and waiting rooms. Hotels could also set aside no more than 25 percent of their rooms for smokers.
Outside of an ocassional cigar, I am not, and never have been, a smoker. Cigarette smoke in particular makes me ill and, in a restaurant, I generally prefer to sit in the non-smoking section. That doesn’t mean, though, that I believe that I or anyone else in the Commonwealth has the right to tell a restaurant or bar owner that they shouldn’t be permitted to make a choice to allow or ban smoking in their establishment. If there really is increasing support for smoking restrictions, then restaurants and bars that don’t allow it should do just fine. At the same time, though, a business owner who chooses to have a smoking section in their restaurant or allow smoking at their bar should be permitted to do so.
But not everyone takes this view. Oddly, many who oppose government restriction in other areas are just loving this. After all, for many non-smokers, it is a constant annoyance to be in a restaurant or bar filled with smoke. For me, actually, as an ex-smoker, I’m always surprised now when I enter a smoke-filled bar at just how much I hate it. But I contrast Doug’s reaction, and my own, with this thread at beeradvocate.com.
Beeradvocate.com is the first place where I heard about freethehops.org, the web site devoted to ending Alabama’s prohibition on beers above 6% ABV. And I’d say, to a person, that the members of beeradvocate.com would reject the notion that it is the government’s place to determine what percentage alcohol should be in the beer an individual buys. Of course, they don’t say they’d like to force liquor stores to carry high-alcohol beers. But they want them to have the option, if the purveyor of the establishment so chooses.
But a large portion of them don’t offer bar owners the same choice. They’re more than happy to decree what a bar owner must allow and not allow in his bar, because smoking offends their personal sensibilities. The government stepping in to do something they don’t like (restricting beer sales) is offensive. But the government stepping in, doing the same basic thing, to restrict a behavior they disapprove of is no problem.
There is a dividing line between conservatives and libertarians, and this is one of the markers between the two. Non-smoking conservatives are usually quick to denounce smokers, and love the idea of smoking bans, because it stops people from engaging in behavior they disagree with. Non-smoking libertarians, on the other hand, may hate walking into smoke-filled bars, but understand that it is the decision of the bar owner to make. We don’t always like the results of freedom, but to a libertarian, the alternative of oppression– even well-meaning oppression– is unacceptable.