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Bloomington's smoking ban, revisited

By Scott Tibbs, August 15, 2009

Tonight, I am going to go see Junior Brown in concert at the Bluebird. I've seen concerts at the Bluebird before, prior to the city of Bloomington's ban on smoking in "public places" taking effect. It will be nice to enjoy the music without the nasty stench of cigarette smoke irritating my nose and throat. But while the smoking ban personally benefits me, I am still opposed to it.

The first problem with the city's ban on smoking in "public places" is the definition of "public places" to include private property. Government buildings, such as the county courthouse or the Showers building, are public places. People go to city and county government to conduct their business and it is perfectly reasonable to prohibit smoking there. Bars and restaurants are not public places. They are private property. No one has the "right" to be in the Bluebird or any other bar or restaurant.

Having cigarettes banned from the Bluebird tonight will personally benefit me, but it is not and should not be my prerogative as a private citizen to tell a private business that the business may not allow the consumption of a legal product on private property. Prior to the smoking ban, I had the freedom of choice to attend or avoid concerts if the venue allowed smoking. A business was free to allow or prohibit smoking depending on what their customers wanted and what would bring in the most business.

The ban on smoking in bars is especially ludicrous. People at the Bluebird tonight will not only be legal adults, they will all be at least 21 years old. (Theoretically, anyway.) They are more than capable of making an informed decision of whether they will patronize an establishment that allows smoking. City government should not be infringing on a decision made by consenting adults. Neither I nor anyone else at tonight's concert needs to have the City Council acting as our Mommy.

It will not happen, but I would love to see the City Council repeal the smoking ban. If I were on the City Council, I would introduce legislation to repeal it even though that legislation would certainly fail. We need more members of the City Council who are willing to introduce legislation that decreases the amount of regulatory power government has over our lives. The next city council election is only two years away, so I hope more of those candidates are elected to represent us in city government.