The Business of Rights

In continuing the Henderson, KY smoking ban controversy, I think the solution is clear. If you missed it, you should read, “Do You Mind if I Smoke” from yesterday.

I am clearly in favor of the smoking ban. To be fair, and in the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I am a non-smoker and I absolutely abhor having smoke forced on me in public places. Not being able to enjoy a game at sports bar without wearing other people’s lung waste is very grating. It is right up there with washing my clothes at a laundromat and having to dash out to the car with clothes unfolded just to insure they are still clean when I get home (and forcing me to iron when it shouldn’t be necessary). Maybe these things prevent me from being totally objective, but I have made the effort to be so.

Despite the argument that it is not government’s place to regulate such things, I think precedence defeats that position. Government regulates all the time regarding public safety and nuisances. There are laws forcing drivers to wear seatbelts and motorcycle riders to wear helmets. Property owners must keep their lawns cut at a reasonable height, and one cannot have cars old cars parked in their yards. Protecting the health of non-smokers - especially children and employees (who are both compelled by their position to be present) is not out of line. It is the responsible thing for government to do to protect the citizenry.

The government also is responsible for picking up the tab on medical expenses for a large part of the population. Medicare and Medicaid programs are necessary for some to get the healthcare that they need (and it is still greatly lacking, but that is another topic). The point is that if the government is going to pay for the consequences of smoking (cancer, emphysema treatments, final expenses, etc .), it follows that government certainly deserves some say on the manner these harmful behaviors can take place.

In addition, claiming that smoking in public is a liberty that people have in a free society is bunk. It does not outweigh others being able to have the right to breathe clean air in those same public places. As it has been said many times, your freedom to swing your arms stops at the tip my nose. I think this also applies to blowing smoke. Does one have a right to smoke? Absolutely. Do they have the right to expose others to it? Absolutely not.

As far as business owners losing business, I just don’t see it. I think business owners may face a challenge to attract and retain business, but to think eating and drinking establishments will become a thing of the past is ridiculous. Elsewhere, business have reported MORE business after this kind of legislation was passed. After all, there are more nonsmokers, than smokers. I don’t think anyone will say, “I can’t go to Joe’s Grill and smoke anymore, so I think I will load up on groceries and go to the trouble of cooking every meal and cleaning it up and not eat out anymore.”
I also doubt people will stop drinking alcohol or decide to stay home and drink alone all the time. We call those who drink alone every night alcoholics. Maybe people will learn something about themselves or their family members that they need to know.

A good businessperson will take an apparent setback and turn it into a positive. For instance, the local club owner that has decided to sell his business could take a different approach rather than just quitting. He could appeal to those in the bigger city across the river to come over and enjoy a smoke-free club, because they certainly aren’t going to find one in Evansville.

Times change and people must adapt with them. Just as livery stables are not practical anymore, car dealerships are. Refrigerators replaced iceboxes but no one is shedding a tear for the ice deliveryman. We learn, we progress, and we rise to challenges. That is the American way. It is also the American way to learn from our mistakes and do our best to stop destructive behavior. Fortunately, these things fit together very well.


Bon & Mal Mott said...

As smokers of long standing, we would like to make a couple of points:
Although we smoke, we do not miss the days when the floors of grocery stores and theaters,the sands of public beaches and the verges of every road were decorated with countless numbers of cigarette butts. The freedom to smoke should not have included the freedom to litter.
We haven't seen any theaters close due to lack of business, but we no longer attend theaters because we prefer to smoke during films, and we are long past the days when we just had to see the latest hit first.
If a business wishes to cater to smokers, and smokers are willing to patronize such a business (and I can assure you that we would so do), we think that it should be allowed. As you say, non-smokers would know what they were in for if they wished to be patrons, and there are plenty of establishments that cater to non-smokers.

Bonnie and Walt
;) :-)

Jeff said...

Thanks for the feedback. I enjoy it when people disagree with the blogger and let them know. Too many people agree or say nothing.

I am not so sure that we are in total disagreement.

As a sports fan, I miss the opportunities to have fellowship at games in sportsbars. I still go sometimes, but it isn't an easy sell to me. Sometimes I am just plain miserable. There are no nonsmoking sports bars around so I am either forced to stay home, or forced to breathe second-hand smoke.

Where do you think the line should be drawn?