Rally at Northrop criticizes smoking ban

Jared Roddy

The hot-button issue of smoking bans made tempers rise during a rally Monday afternoon at Northrop Plaza, despite the cold weather.

Campus Libertarians, local business owners and fewer than 10 students rallied to support private freedom, and to speak out against city-imposed smoking bans.

“Our concern is not to advocate tobacco use,” said Campus Libertarians President Brian Feldt. “Our concern is the government usurping the rights of business owners on the word of junk science.”

“Junk science” refers to studies linking secondhand smoke to cancer or death, Feldt said.

Dave Golden, Boynton Health Service public health and marketing director, said he thinks Libertarians should talk to the scientists who conduct the studies.

“A lot of the information is pretty high-quality stuff,” he said.

Corinne Ertz, an American Cancer Society grassroots advocacy manager, also defended the research.

“It’s not junk science. It’s very well-documented in significant amounts of research,” Ertz said. “Even tobacco companies admit that secondhand smoke is a carcinogen.”

For most of the attendees, however, the argument was not about science or smoking; it was about the basic liberties they said they felt were being stripped away.

Even nonsmoking Libertarians voiced their opposition to smoking bans.

“I’m not a smoker, I’m a Libertarian, and it’s one of those things a business owner should be able to decide,” said Scott Jackson, a statistics graduate student.

Sue Jeffers, owner of Stub & Herbs and an opponent of the smoking ban, also attended the event.

“With as much money as it costs me to do business in this state and this city, I should be allowed to sell pot,” Jeffers said.

Jeffers said she expects to lose up to a quarter of $1 million when the ban goes into effect.

Feldt, while smoking a cigar, maintained that the city and county smoking bans infringe on private rights of people.

“It’s about private property rights,” Feldt said. “People have the right to do with their property what they want.”

Ertz said that personal liberties aside, the rights of the business owners were secondary to the rights of the patrons.

“The city councils are all saying the right to breathe clean air is more important than the right to smoke in these establishments,” she said.

Golden said more important than the dangers, nonsmokers should not have to breathe smoke.

“There is no reason why people who don’t want to breathe others’ smoke should have to,” Golden said. “It’s still an infringement on other people’s rights.”

Ian Skemp, a first-year English student who attended the event, said he hoped a compromise could be reached.

“Complain to a business owner, not an elected official,” Skemp said. “If it’s in the owner’s best interest, or they’re getting too many complaints, then they’ll change. Just make it their choice.”