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Government gone wild
The bandwagon of local smoking bans now steamrolling from sea to sea has nothing to do with protecting people from the "threat of second-hand smoke" but are themselves symptoms of a far more grievous threat: acancer that has been spreading for decades throughout the body politic, reaching even the tiniest organs of local government. This cancer is the only real hazard involved - the cancer of unlimited government power.
The issue is not whether second-hand smoke is a real danger or a phantommenace but rather, if it were harmful, what would be the proper reaction? Should anti-smoking activists satisfy themselves with educating people about the potential danger and allow them to make their own decisions, or should they seize the power of government and force people to make the “right” decision?
It seems they've made their choice. Loudly billed as measures that only affect “public places,” they have actually targeted private places: restaurants, bars, nightclubs, shops, and offices - places whose owners are free to set anti-smoking rules or whose customers are free to go elsewhere if they don't like the smoke. Some local bans even harass smokers outdoors.
The decision to smoke or to avoid “second-hand” smoke, should be made byeach individual according to his own values and assessment of the risks. This is the same kind of decision free people make regarding every aspect of their lives: how much to spend or invest, whom to befriend or love, whetherto go to college or get a job, whether to get married or divorced, and so on.
All these decisions involve risks; some may have harmful consequences or invite disapproval from others. But the individual must be free to make thesedecisions because his life belongs to him, not to others, and only his own judgment can guide him through it.
Yet when it comes to smoking, this freedom is under attack. Smokers are a minority, practicing a habit often considered annoying and unpleasant to the majority. So the majority has simply commandeered the power of government and used it to dictate their behaviour.
That is why these bans are far more threatening than few stray whiffs of tobacco smoke while waiting for a table at your favourite restaurant. The anti-smoking crusaders point in exaggerated alarm at those tiny wisps while they unleash the systematic and unlimited intrusion of government into our lives.
March 18, 2010 at 1:12 p.m.
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