Saturday, February 18, 2006

Colorado, Democrats, and Smokers

For once there is truly something worthwhile to talk about in my state of Colorado. However, last week’s article and this article are topics I wish I did not have to talk about in the first place. The Democratic controlled Colorado State House (35-D, 30-R) passed a ban on smoking in indoor public places with exemptions for tobacco shops, casinos and the smoking lounge at Denver International Airport. Colorado State House Bill 1175’s sponsor, State Representative Mike May (a liberal Republican, as if Republicans in this state didn’t have enough problems to deal with already) claims the bill will help improve the health of the general public and that of restaurant workers who come into contact with smokers on a daily basis.

“Your rights end where my nose begins,” is a justification for this bill according to Rep. May of Parker, Colorado.

“It is really easy to decide the fate of others,” said State Representative Bill Cadman, a Republican from my hometown of Colorado Springs, Colorado. Representative Cadman, one of the most vocal opponents of the bill, says lawmakers would better serve the general public by creating air-quality standards for indoor public venues.

What is the right thing to do in this situation? I hate cigarette smoke. It has a sickening smell and reminds me of dirty hippies who go to concerts sponsored by Viagra. However, that is not a reason to ban smoking in public places. It comes down to the topic of rights. Where is the line after which my rights override the rights of others? Generally, I have always maintained that my rights override the rights of others only when their rights are causing me harm and at the same time cannot be adjusted to not harm me. Smokers are possibly harming those who are around second-hand smoke. However, this does not mean we should ban smoking in public places. If workers dislike the smoke and the possible effects of second-hand smoke, they can get a new job or transfer to another position. If the cost of second hand smoke outweighs the benefit of their current job, they will logically leave their current job and find a new one.

A previous argument that has died down is the argument that this ban will benefit the general public when out and about on the town. For instance, what happens when two 19-year-old college students go to a bar and order some drinks (yes Democrats, you haven’t defeated underage drinking yet). They are surrounded by smokers in this scenario. Is it right to ban smoking in bars for these two college students? Of course not! Instead, if the cost of inhaling smoke to these two college students outweighs the benefit of drinking, these two college students will leave the bar and drink illegally elsewhere.

If the cost of smelling smoke outweighs the benefit of attending the establishment that has smokers, then you simply leave that establishment. It is a simple economic theory that lends itself well to real life. My personal opinion is that cigarette smoking is a dying breed (except among liberal hippies and liberal college students, oddly enough). Fewer and fewer establishments are allowing smoking on their own. We do not need big brother to force businesses to change their legal practices. By forcing bars and other establishments to not allow smoking, many bars will be hard pressed to stay in business. It appears once again the Democrats, the crusaders against the evil corporations, are making it harder and harder for small “mom and pop” businesses to stay in business.

The bill is expected to pass the Democratic controlled State Senate (18-D, 17-R). Governor Bill Owens, a liberal Republican (who lost much of the Republican Party’s respect in the 2005 election with his support of Referendums C and D), is expected to sign the bill into law.

My opposition to this bill is in principle. I dislike the smell of cigarette smoke. However, the principle says that my rights in this case do not trump those of smokers. There is not a legal or economic reason for outlawing smoking in Colorado. This should be left up to businesses (and businesses are quickly ending smoking in this state in the first place). However, this is just yet another example of big government dictating to businesses how they should run their establishments.

Another fine lesson from Conservative Textbook.

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