7th September 00:35
a tyranny exercised for the good of its victim may be the most oppressive
Smoking ban chokes rights too tight
Your voice: Matthew McGowan
As a restaurant worker, I have followed with great interest the debate over
the proposed clean indoor air law currently being explored by Cincinnati
City Council, which would ban smoking in most indoor public places,
including bars and restaurants.
Many people seem to believe this is a public heath issue, but I disagree. No
one is forcing anyone to dine in a smoke-filled room, and there are many
restaurants whose owners have already voluntarily banned smoking. People who
wish to dine completely smoke-free could support these businesses and
encourage, rather than force, others to follow in their footsteps.
It seems to me, however, that we are debating the wrong questions; in this
case, whether secondhand smoke is good or bad. Most people would agree it's
bad, even if there is differing opinion as to what extent. But a more
important, if not largely overlooked question is: Who decides which legal
and consensual activities should be allowed on privately owned property, the
property owner or the government?
For good or ill, smoking is perfectly legal for adults. Many of us consider
smoking to be a nasty habit, and rightfully so, but the thought of
government trying to regulate that habit should be considered frightening.
If politically unpopular, yet otherwise legal activities such as smoking can
be outlawed, what could be next? We can easily walk away from a smoke-filled
bar or restaurant; can we so easily walk away from our civil liberties?
Whether the public favors a smoking ban is irrelevant, and whatever economic
impact such a ban may or may not have is equally irrelevant. What is
relevant is whether government has a right to interfere in the operation of
a private business when no illegal activity is taking place, or has been.
It has been said that of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of
its victim may be the most oppressive, because those who torment us for our
own good do so with the approval of their own conscience, and thus will
torment us without end.
Though the proposed smoking ban doesn't seem to strike as much fear into the
hearts of Cincinnatians as, say, the USA Patriot Act, it should worry them
even more, because it represents the first small step down a very real
slippery slope that we, as Americans, don't really want to travel