November 18, 2006

First They Came For The Smokers. . .

On June 30, the law banning smoking in all public places in Colorado (with just a few exemptions) went into effect. These were my thoughts then:
Unless you are 15 feet away from a business entrance, or on a patio--or one of the exempted areas in the legislation, it will now be a crime to smoke in public.

Of course, the actual threat of second-hand smoking notwithstanding, the real thrust of the legislation is more nanny-state control over our lives, now dictating where one might smoke legally. Rather than leaving that choice to individual business owners best suited to take into consideration their patrons and their own employees' concerns, the state has decided to determine the outcome for them. How nice.

But you can still drink, although that was also once the target of a campaign that led to the most well-intentioned and least effective government program ever: Prohibition. The arguments were essentially the same. The government saving you from yourself.

Still, at the end of the day, I fear the immediate impact (no pun intended) of the drunk/intoxicated driver instead of the remote and tenuous possibility that second-hand smoke might affect my health in, oh, 5o years. I'll take the chance frequenting places that offer smoking, now essentially reduced to casinos, while lighting up a great cigar the half-dozen times a year the feeling strikes me. Don't misunderstand, I support alcohol freedom, including the push for legalization at 18. Just don't tell me or private enterprise where to smoke or socialize with those who do. What's next, no smoking at home?
That last thought, prescient or perhaps foreseeable in predicting a ban on smoking at home--and anywhere else for that matter--has already begun in California:
Belmont is set to make history by becoming the first city in the nation to ban smoking on its streets and almost everywhere else.

The Belmont City Council voted unanimously last night to pursue a strict law that will prohibit smoking anywhere in the city except for single-family detached residences. Smoking on the street, in a park and even in one’s car will become illegal and police would have the option of handing out tickets if they catch someone.

The actual language of the law still needs to be drafted and will likely come back to the council either in December or early next year.

“We have a tremendous opportunity here. We need to pass as stringent a law as we can, I would like to make it illegal,” said Councilman Dave Warden. “What if every city did this, image how many lives would be saved? If we can do one little thing here at this level it will matter.”

Armed with growing evidence that second-hand smoke causes negative health effects, the council chose to pursue the strictest law possible and deal with any legal challenges later. Last month, the council said it wanted to pursue a law similar to ones passed in Dublin and the Southern California city of Calabasas. It took up the cause after a citizen at a senior living facility requested smoke be declared a public nuisance, allowing him to sue neighbors who smoke.

The council was concerned about people smoking in multi-unit residences.

“I would just like to say ‘no smoking’ and see what happens and if they do smoke, [someone] has the right to have the police come and give them a ticket,” said Councilwoman Coralin Feierbach.
Legislation through wishful thinking, rather than reality--such nanny-state arguments declaring their intentions to save people from themselves, the same nuanced reasoning for the oh-so-successful Prohibition amendment. Lest one think that this sort of silliness be relegated to the confines of the state of California, a couple in Golden, Colorado faces a ban on smoking from their own HOA:
A judge has upheld a homeowners association's order barring a couple from smoking in the town house they own.

Colleen and Rodger Sauve, both smokers, filed a lawsuit in March after their condominium association amended its bylaws last December to prohibit smoking.

"We argued that the HOA was not being reasonable in restricting smoking in our own unit, nowhere on the premises, not in the parking lot or on our patio," Colleen Sauve said.

The Heritage Hills #1 Condominium Owners Association was responding to complaints from the Sauves' neighbors who said cigarette smoke was seeping into their units, representing a nuisance to others in the building.

In a Nov. 7 ruling, Jefferson County District Judge Lily Oeffler ruled the association can keep the couple from smoking in their own home.

Oeffler stated "smoke and/or smoke smell" is not contained to one area and that smoke smell "constitutes a nuisance." She noted that under condo declarations, nuisances are not allowed.

The couple now has to light up on the street in front of their condominium building.
The HOA is not even arguing the ill-effects of second-hand smoke in this case, merely the presence of smoking as a "nuisance" to fellow condo-owners. (a real issue that should be addressed is the relative ease of transferance of the smoke; the condos appear to be poorly constructed and perhaps the unit managers/owners should be held responsible for the proper insulation necessary for separating the units more clearly, including sealant and duct-work) Appended to the "nuisance" claim is one of nanny-state collectivism, where "community interests" trump individual rights and responsibility, as well as privacy in one's own home:
Other homeowners believe, as with loud music, that the rights of a community trump the rights of individual residents. The HOA is also concerned that tenants will sue those homeowners for exposure to second-hand smoke and this could be a liability issue.
This logical progression from smoking restrictions to public smoking bans to private smoking bans exemplifies why slippery-slope arguments, while often overused, actually apply to situations such as this. Well-intentioned, save-you-from-yourself legislators and activist groups, push legislation that incrementally removes individual rights all the while arguing that such enactments "save lives" or that their superior intellect has determined what is right for everyone in society. Similar to proposed bans on trans-fats in New York, and previous attempts to ban firearms, and perhaps future targets such as the consumption of meat, all citizens should be aware of the erosion of their inherent rights, especially when those rights are targeted within one's own home. Don't let the nanny-state collectivists determine what is or is not good for you, that should be your choice and your responsibility.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

So to help preserve our health, lets have our government officials just past a law against death and dying. Let everyone live forever and these government officials can just get relected and pass even more laws.
Doesn't they realize that man shall not live by law alone.

Sun Nov 26, 03:53:00 PM  

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