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Why not exempt everyone from the smoking ban?

By Scott Tibbs, December 19, 2011

A December 4 editorial in the Journal Gazette asks whether a limited statewide smoking ban is acceptable or whether legislators should push for a much more comprehensive ban. But while legislators haggle over who should be exempted, the obvious question lingers: Why not just exempt everyone?

The fundamental question is not whether this or that class of business should be exempt from a statewide smoking ban. The fundamental question is whether the proper role of government is to forbid the use of a legal product by consenting adults on private property. Unfortunately, the vast majority of both Republicans and Democrats in the legislature have ceded a power to government that would have been unthinkable only 25 years ago.

But the nanny state is relentless. Once the nannies have their sights set on something, they will keep coming back. Smoking bans have been passed in a number of Indiana cities as anti-smoking activists have built their case over ten years. Reasonable limits on smoking in places like hospitals and government buildings morphed into restrictions on private property rights, even when the only people allowed in are consenting adults.

In Monroe County, you cannot even smoke in your own vehicle if a child 13 years old or younger is with you. If you think that will remain confined to Bloomington, or the nanny state will be satisfied with smoking bans in private vehicles and will not push for ever more restrictive bans, you are deluding yourself. If nothing else, smoking opponents have demonstrated that the slope is indeed slippery.

We don't need government policing our lives.

Let me be clear: I despise smoking. If you smoke, you should quit. I do not want you smoking in my home and I will try to convince you to stop smoking elsewhere. But it is not my place to use the power of government to force you to live your life the way you please, including consumption of legal products.

The most discouraging thing about the latest nanny-state intrusion into personal choice, business and private property rights is the fact that both chambers are dominated by Republicans swept in by the 2010 Tea Party wave. Despite the revival of constitutional conservatism federally and serious efforts at conservative reform in the states, it appears that we have lost this battle. And that is sad.