- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 30, 2009


The nanny state is alive and well in the United States. After getting their foot in the door by banning indoor smoking in much of the country, do-gooders and crazed health advocates now use government to ban lighting up outside.

This particularly galling attack on civil liberties should not come as a surprise. Anti-smoking advocates have long had little patience or regard for individual freedom and personal responsibility.

While it is arguably not true, as Moliere wrote in “Don Juan,” that “tobacco inspires feelings of honor, and virtue in all those who take it,” it is also not the personification of evil. Nevertheless, the self-important crusaders who push such bans clearly just want smokers to be good children of the state and do as they are told. If adults don’t stop smoking, they will be forced to.

Smoking is already banned indoors in New York City where Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas A. Farley recently announced he is seeking to also ban smoking at city parks and beaches. Los Angeles County recently enacted a similar measure and related efforts are in the works in the D.C. area to stop adults from smoking.

The D.C. City Council is considering legislation that would allow building owners to ban smoking within 25 feet of their doors by posting no smoking signs. This could mean someone walking down the street with a smoke in their hands would potentially break the law. If enacted, the move will surely lead to a push to mandate such bans for all buildings.

The Rockville City Council recently approved a change to the city’s anti-smoking policy making it illegal to smoke within 40 feet of playgrounds and city parks. Smoking was already banned at city pools, playing fields and dog parks, ostensibly because the cute little poodles’ lungs can’t take it.

Maryland already has a statewide ban in restaurants, bars and nightclubs. A similar ban on indoor smoking is coming soon to Virginia.

So what’s a responsible smoker to do? You know the type: the polite smoker who asks if you mind before lighting up and waits till you finish your meal. My advice is smoke them if you’ve got them, while you still can.

Pretty soon, anti-smoking advocates will ban smoking everywhere. After every success, they simply push for more draconian bans. Calabasas, Calif., banned smoking pretty much everywhere within its jurisdiction except on private residential property in 2006.

Sure, government will still let you buy cigarettes and cigars while taxing them immensely, but good luck finding a place to light up.

On a recent trip to Napa Valley, Calif., one of the few public places I found to smoke a cigar was at a shop owned by a winemaker friend. That was technically illegal. I was not even allowed to light one outside a private reception held in my honor because the patio was too close to the building.

As a cigar smoker, I disdain cigarette smoke and understand why some people don’t want to be near it. Nothing will ruin the enjoyment of a good cigar as quickly as the smell of someone else’s cigarette with its inferior, quick-dried tobacco. But as the son of a cardiologist, I appreciate nicotine addicts: They helped put me through college.

Most important and ignored by all these bans is personal choice and individual liberty. If someone is walking down the street smoking, I can cross the street. I can change tables at a restaurant from next to a rude smoker who refuses to stop smoking while I eat or ask for them to be moved. Living in a civil society means compromise, from both sides on any issue.

The idea of nonsmoking sections now seems quaint. Most smokers once would have done their best to keep their billowing tar from hitting a stranger. Unfortunately, those days of respect on both sides appear long gone. Ironically, this only further drives anti-smoking zealotry and advocates’ lack of respect for personal responsibility.

Some smoking-ban advocates argue that outdoor bans are needed because secondhand smoke is dangerous, particularly to children. While they apply the same logic anchoring indoor bans to outdoor bans, the science is just not there.

Secondhand smoke impacts have been studied primarily in closed environments. The California Air Resources Board, which regulates the state’s air, did find in a 2006 study that air quality outdoors in close proximity to smokers was negatively affected.

But as has been shown in other studies, the closeness to the smoker matters much more outdoors than inside. The danger drops precipitously within a couple of feet so the air at that point is basically normal.

Smoking is a bad for your health and smokers do die earlier, on average, than nonsmokers. That’s their choice. Embracing that fact could provide just the sort of real cost savings to propel health care policy changes over the top on Capitol Hill.

Hear that, President Obama? Maybe you should start encouraging smoking by lighting up at Rose Garden press conferences? Your effort to quit is legendary, so go ahead and enjoy a smoke. I hate to think of you lighting up in secret, like John F. Kennedy enjoying his banned clandestine Cuban cigars. It is certainly less politically dicey than further rationing health care, and the guys on “Mad Men” certainly make it look cool.

That is if smoking hasn’t yet been banned completely. It is only a matter of time.

Christian Bourge is a senior editorial writer at The Washington Times. His opinions can also be heard every weekend on “The Capitol Hill Blues” radio show on XM Radio 165. It is taped in a studio where he, unfortunately, can’t light up a cigar.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide