Ban smoking or respect the smokers.

Smoking bans are hypocritical and over-reaching government.

by Steven Snyder

I rarely smoke, and most of the time find it annoying when others do.

When a person cannot go to a bar without his clothes reeking of tobacco, cannot sit behind a smoker at a public event without choking on their exhaust, cannot enter a building during the winter because of the congregation of smokers blocking the entrance, the act itself earns my ire.

I am not alone in my gripes. So many people agree with me that both the Minneapolis and St. Paul city councils are debating banning smoking in all bars and restaurants. These proposals might come up for a vote as soon as this week, and could go into effect as early as September 1.

On June 2 the Star Tribune editorial board decried the fact these city councils were not unanimously in favor of such a proposal. They were appalled that even a few council members would dare oppose such a mandate, and cited many statistics in support of their argument, including:

  • Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States.
  • Smoking kills an estimated 5,600 Minnesotans each year; adult tobacco users die, on average, 13 to 14 years earlier than nonsmokers. Young smokers tend not to think it”ll happen to them.
  • Nearly a third of young adults (age 18-24) in Minnesota are established current smokers.

The Star Tribune editorial board claims banning smoking at these public places will save lives.

Of course, they”re right. It would likely lead to less smoking which would, in turn, save lives.

 My question is this: If smoking is such a terror, why is it not banned altogether? Why would we knowingly allow teenagers and adults to purchase a product that will would kill them?

 The answer is as a society we have accepted that some people want to smoke, want to take the risk, and consider it something they enjoy. We have sanctioned the activity, while warning of the risks, and some businesses and establishments have decided it is in their best interest to let people smoke within their structures.

 What politicians have been doing across the country recently is damning the activity, while hesitating to damn the participator. They want to shun smoking, push it out into the street and away from where it can be seen. But they also enjoy the tax revenue it generates and will never go so far as to propose banning the product.

Consequently, a disconnect exists. People can smoke legally, but now the government is trying to change where it”s legal for them to do so. This is hypocrisy of the highest order.

 Bars, restaurants and private establishments have a right to enact their own rules and run their businesses as they see fit, within the law. Since smoking is a legal activity, they have every right to allow smokers to do it on their property.

 Those who shudder at such a philosophy and cite statistics like those above should mount a campaign to ban the substance altogether. If it is so dangerous that people should not be standing near someone smoking, how can it be all right for the person actually putting the lit cigarette into his or her mouth? It would be irresponsible for legislators not to denounce this activity, its industry and its users, and demand sweeping societal regulation.

 But no such claims are made. Instead, these recent bans reflect legislation of convenience. Proponents of the bans do not like smoking, much as I do not like it, and are trying to legislate it out of their lives. They are the same ones people who get annoyed in restaurants when other people smoke and give smokers dirty looks at outdoor events.

 To those people I say, ban smoking or respect the smoker. There is no in-between. If smoking is legal, businesses should be free to allow it on their premises.

 If we are going to start legislating based on personal preference, I have some other bans I”d like to propose. Forthwith, “”Legally Blonde”” movies, loud public cell phone use and driving at or below the speed limit while in the left lane, are all illegal.

Sound preposterous? So does banning bars from letting patrons use a legal product.

Steven Snyder welcomes feedback at [email protected].