Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Illinois Smoking Ban

The state legislature passed a statewide smoking ban today and the Gov. Blagojevich is expected to sign it into law. The ban would go into effect on January 1, 2008. For my money, it can’t come soon enough!

I’m not much on government playing big brother. I sympathize with Rep. Bill Black from Danville, but I make an exception here. Black says the free market will resolve the issue and it has. It has resolved the issue in favor of allowing smoking. But in this case the market has given us a solution that is detrimental to society. When a smoker lights up, he is not only poisoning himself but every one else nearby. The US Surgeon General has said that there is no safe level of second hand smoke. With the number of smokers continually decreasing and all the science being on the non-smoking side this is a government action I’m willing to back. It is for the public good and is backed by empirical evidence.

Of course, not all the anti smoking ban forces were as serious as Rep. Black.
Opponents contended the legislation would destroy already troubled small businesses, such as mom-and-pop bars that provide customers a place to party down and light up.

Did they really make this argument? Customers need a place to “party down.” This is a dubious political argument the “pursuit of happiness” clause not withstanding. But just as importantly, it sounds like it was put forward by a bunch of college fraternities.

Of course others said that people would go elsewhere. That argument is getting damn old! All long term evidence from other states show otherwise. Sure, some smokers stay away but more nonsmokers start to come out. Evidence in Chicago is that restaurants are not feeling any real hit.

I know some people fear the public smoking bans are the first step towards an outright ban on smoking. Although I think there might be some public good to that when there are less cancers and emphysema, etc., it goes too far down the line of big brother regulation. If a person is happy when she is poisoning herself with tobacco (and I do enjoy the occasional cigar, on my front porch) then she should be allowed to do so. She just shouldn’t be allowed to poison others in the process. Smoke at home. Smoke in your car. Smoke in your back yard. Hell, smoke in a public park. But not in a public enclosed space. You aren’t allowed to hurt me.

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