This article was originally published at uncoverthenews.com on Jan. 13th, 2008
I quit smoking on Oct. 14th, 1996. I did so cold turkey. Everyone was amazed that I was able to quit after smoking one and a half to two packs a day for fifteen years. I´ve stayed quit for over eleven years now. Since I´ve quit I´ve felt much healthier. I´ve gotten rid of a bad cough. I´m able to smell and taste my food better. I just feel better about myself. I personally don´t like smoke. It stinks. It makes my clothes stink. I don´t really like smoke filled rooms or breathing in second hand smoke. It could lead to problems breathing. Some may think that someone like myself might welcome a ban on smoking in all buildings accessible to the general public. Some may think that after one quits smoking one becomes a smoking Nazi and would preach the wonders of quitting to those still addicted to the filtered leaf. Not I. It is not my business if someone else wants to smoke. That is, was and always will be up to the individual.
I got into a discussion at a party with a group of people who liked to go to a specific dance club where I expressed my disdain for smoking bans. They told me they loved the smoking ban and I wouldn´t win the argument. You may ask why someone like me, an ex smoker with no love for the habit, would be against a smoking ban. The answer is simple. It´s a matter of freedom. I´m not talking about the freedom to smoke, or the freedom to be in a smoke free environment, or the freedom of someone to work smoke free, or any of those peripheral issues. I am talking about the freedom for a business owner to decide for himself how to run his business. I´m talking about the freedom for an individual to be able to decide for himself what rules should be followed on his private property. Those with whom I was discussing these matters were only worried about themselves. They were non smokers and so they were happy the dance place they liked to go to was now smoke free. Of course, they didn´t think about the fact that they were bringing the force of government down upon a business owner for running his business the way he wanted. They weren´t innovative enough to come up with new ideas as to how to handle the situation, such as opening their own non smoking dance floor down the street to compete, or boycotting the business to put financial pressure on the business owner who may have come up with a solution on his own if he started losing money. There are other ways to bring about change without passing laws that can end up creating unintended consequences. They never considered the other guy, only their own selfish interests.
It may have surprised these people when I decided to frame the discussion in that manner. They, like many other Americans, were probably expecting an utterance of some kind of "group think" mentality, something to the effect of the rights of smokers to put whatever substance they want into their bodies. This they would have countered with the rights of non-smokers to be able to go out to places without having to put up with second hand smoke. This is the kind of collectivist mentality many of us have been taught by the public school system. This kind of "us vs. them" mentality is the kind of thing governments like to foster to keep groups at odds with each other so they can step in as sort of a referee and exercise power. The collectivist mentality is exactly what the founders of this country were trying to protect against when they crafted the Bill of Rights. It is the type of mentality that allows for government entities (including corporations which are creations of government and should never, ever be considered persons or guaranteed the rights inherent in the individual) to be able to confiscate private property for no good reason or under the guise of eminent domain. Groups of people do not have rights, only individuals have rights, the rights nature´s god grants all human beings. What in the current vernacular is considered to be "rights" of certain groups are in actuality privileges.
Of course smokers have the right to smoke, but only when they have permission of the owner of the private property they are on. Non-smokers have the right to not frequent establishments that give the smoker permission to do so on their property. They have the right to choose to spend their money at an establishment that prohibits smoking. But this issue has never been about the right to smoke or not to smoke, it´s been about who decides and about the abdication of personal responsibility. This issue is about control. When the government makes the decision that no one is allowed to smoke in private businesses they have taken away the rights of an individual to make his own decision regarding his business and granted privileged status to a group of people known as non smokers. The non smokers, upon condoning this behavior, have accepted the status of higher privilege and have abdicated their responsibility to shop around for a market solution to a perceived problem. They are, in essence, becoming infantilized and crying to mommy government to please help protect them from the big, bad smokers. The government, for its part, has shown its authoritarian nature which stems from the collectivist mentality. Collectivism, in the end, always seems to lead to an authoritarian government. All the rationalizing and equivocating in the world will not change the fact that private business owners are no longer allowed to make their own business decisions regarding a legal substance under threat of fines and maybe even jail time. To me, this is a sad and disturbing turn of events.
I don´t smoke and I think it´s a nasty habit. I wish no one smoked. It´s not good for anybody. But I´m not about to tell people how to live their lives. What works for me won´t necessarily work for you. I will not advocate prohibition of any kind. Time and again throughout history we have seen how prohibition does not work and leads only to the destruction of lives and human suffering. The smoking ban will be no different. It is just another step in granting the government more power and control over the individual. There have already been unintended consequences by making such laws. Some businesses that cater to smokers have closed, costing laborers their jobs. Patrons who smoke may simply decide to stay home from now on and so businesses will lose revenue. More heinous yet, what is to happen in the future? Whenever the government obtains more power, they are loath to give the power back to the people and begin actively seeking even more control over the populace. We have opened the door to government telling us what we can and cannot do in our private businesses, how long until they decide what can and can´t be done in our homes? After all, they are just trying to protect the public. What good is mommy government if it doesn´t try to protect us all, even if only from ourselves?