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"Just say no" to a statewide smoking ban

By Scott Tibbs, February 10, 2009

The Herald-Times reports that the Indiana Legislature is considering a statewide ban on smoking in "public places." Smoking bans have been passed by local government before, most notably in Fort Wayne and here in Bloomington.

The arguments are revolving around the economic impact of the ban, with bar and casino owners raising objections that people who drink or gamble will not patronize a place where they are not allowed to smoke. I do not think that is a terribly good argument. The economic data does not seem to indicate that the smoking bans have been harmful, and it is true that nonsmokers significantly outnumber smokers.

A better argument would be to focus on property rights and individual choice. Is it the role of state government to force private property owners to forbid the use of a legal product in their place of business? Or should state government adopt a pro-choice stance and allow the market to decide whether establishments that allow or forbid smoking will be economically viable? Ideally, the legislature should choose the latter.

While we may have the right to breathe clean air, consumers can freely choose to not patronize an establishment that allows smoking. When I saw Junior Brown perform in concert at the Bluebird a few years ago, I found the heavy cigarette smoke to be very irritating but accepted it as part of the cost of watching the show. While removing the stench of cigarette smoke has been a benefit to me, I do not believe it is my right to force my preferences on everyone else.

It seems that some in the state legislature are determined to play the role of "parent" through nanny-state regulations. I am 35 years old and a legal adult. I am perfectly capable of running my own life and choosing whether or not to patronize a business that allows the use of a legal product by consenting adults. I do not need 100 state representatives and 50 state senators trying to be my parents.