We’ll Make the Tough Decisions for You!

The smoking ban, though well intended, violates personal freedoms and the chance to think

by Published: Jan 20, 2010

Editor’s Note: The fol­low­ing arti­cle dis­cusses only my opin­ion toward smok­ing leg­is­la­tion and does not reflect my opin­ion on the choice to smoke or my stance on the effects that second-hand smoke has on pub­lic health.

The quickly approach­ing smok­ing ban has evoked a mix­ing pot of emo­tions from Michiganders. I have found my own opin­ions to be com­plex and occa­sion­ally con­flict­ing, but they have led me to a con­clu­sion on my stance: I am not in favor of state-wide smok­ing ban legislation.

The key word here is “leg­is­la­tion.” People should be left to make their own deci­sions, be they poor for their health or not, so long as they are informed and these choices are not forced upon the per­son due to circumstance.

Many restau­rants and other pub­lic areas have already gone smoke-free. The need to leg­is­late a trend that is becom­ing the norm is quite beyond my understanding.

By obser­va­tion, it seems to be that eater­ies that do have smok­ing sec­tions are the excep­tion. It would stand to rea­son, then, that these restau­rants, being per­haps one of the few places where a smok­ing sec­tion is present, truly may be hurt by a smok­ing ban.

Insofar as bars are con­cerned, how­ever, I do under­stand why peo­ple may want a bar to be smoke-free. Certainly not all drinkers are smok­ers. Even when ignor­ing the irony of this “one poi­son ver­sus the other” sort of trade off though, I still stum­ble into areas of conflict.

If a bar is an “ages 18 and up” estab­lish­ment and its own­ers wish to accom­mo­date their smok­ing cus­tomers’ habits, I think that this is a busi­ness deci­sion that should be left up to the estab­lish­ment. If the busi­ness wants to risk los­ing cus­tomers who do not want to be around said smoke, then this is a wager that I believe busi­ness own­ers have the right to make.

A rea­son­able excep­tion to this premise is chil­dren. A child largely has lit­tle influ­ence over fac­tors that could prove to affect his or her health. Decisions influ­enc­ing a child’s well­be­ing are usu­ally left up to par­ents. I can cer­tainly see how, for the sake of someone’s health who can­not yet make edu­cated deci­sions and whose par­ents may be unin­formed or self­ish, the smok­ing ban is rea­son­able in this respect.

Ultimately though, I would say that the deci­sion to allow smok­ing should be left up to the estab­lish­ment and the deci­sion to attend such an estab­lish­ment should be left up to the patrons. The pub­lic demand for the types of estab­lish­ments peo­ple want to fre­quent will be enforced by their mon­e­tary support.

I sus­pect that, as pub­lic opin­ion towards tobacco con­tin­ues to lean in the way of heavy oppo­si­tion, most pub­lic estab­lish­ments would then end up decid­ing to become “smoke-free” places of busi­ness. I do not feel it is right for the gov­ern­ment to trump free­dom of choice in such a pater­nal­is­tic man­ner as to pass leg­is­la­tion because “they know what is good for us.”