Tuesday, October 31, 2006

"Nanny" Laws

Today, the city council of a nearby city passed a comprehensive smoking ban ordinance. Smoking is now banned in
public buildings, offices, restaurants, shopping malls, sports arenas and bars. Exempt from the ban is smoking in private homes, designated smoking rooms in hotels and motels, retail tobacco stores, private clubs, and outdoors more than 10 feet from a building entrance.

Not only will violators be fined, but business owners who allow smoking on their premises will be fined as well.

I'm not a smoker, but I have a few problems with this new ordinance. Not only is it an inappropriate legal intrusion into how a business owner chooses to do business, but business owners are not police officers and should not be expected to act in that role by enforcing this law. They're in business to make money, not be unpaid police officers.

I think the present system of smoking/nonsmoking areas and other types of designated smoking areas works well enough. More importantly, this system recognizes business owners' rights to operate their businesses as they see fit, smokers' rights to engage in a legal activity, and nonsmokers' rights to avoid unwanted secondhand smoke.

I've also heard there are plans in the works to try to ban fast food restaurants from serving unhealthy food. Again, information is already available about what is in individual menu items, so that customers can freely make their own choices accordingly.

Such kind of "nanny" laws treat adults like children, who cannot be trusted to take responsibility for the choices they make in life, good and bad. No one is forcing nonsmokers to patronize smoky bars, nor force-feeding them Big Macs.

The government can properly provide information about healthy life choices, but should never legally mandate them. As long as they don't harm others or infringe on their rights to do differently, people should have the right to make their own choices in life.


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