The nannies in Bama have finally given up on piecemeal efforts to ban smoking in towns, cities and counties across the state. Senate Bill 155, currently in committee, will make smoking in public places (including bars and restaurants) a Class C Misdemeanor (up to three months in jail or a $500 fine) statewide. I’ve heard all of the reasons why preventing customers and business owners from determining the appropriate smoking policy for a particular establishment is a good idea and, frankly, I’m still not convinced that giving up more liberty is worth the supposed benefits. People make unhealthy and otherwise risky choices all the time. So what? The promise that laws can save us from ourselves is continually on the lips of every nanny. When these paternalistic programs don’t work, the nannies claim that all we need is one more law.
Even if preserving liberty isn’t your thing, regulations should at least be rational. Government health regs are designed to protect us from unseen dangers, like harmful microbes in our food. Back in the bad old days, you could have made an argument that cigarette smoke was a “hidden” danger. Nowadays, though, everyone knows that cigarette smoke is unhealthy and it’s pretty obvious when smoking is going on in a bar or restaurant. To avoid that risk, all you have to do is not patronize establishments that allow smoking or don’t have effective ventilation systems. Gene first alerted me to this important distinction between obvious and non-obvious risks and did a nice takedown of the public health rationale that the smoking nannies in DC were offering to support the smoking ban there.
The real issue here is whether adults ought to be treated like adults or whether the neo-fascist health nannies should be able to treat us like children “for our own good.” I, for one, believe that adults ought to be able to make their own decisions about their own lives. If you think that adults should be treated like adults, contact your state senator and let him or her know how you feel and pick up a “Smoking is Healthier than Fascism” t-shirt here.