Wichita Falls New Smoking Ordinance: Just Another Crack in Liberty’s Foundation [OP-ED]
Okay. So now Wichita Falls has banned smoking. Lots of folks are quite happy with this decision. Others are so angry they can hardly contain themselves. I’m not a smoker. The fact that you can no longer smoke in any restaurant, the fact that, in a couple of years, you’ll no longer be able to smoke in a bar, is really of no consequence to me whatsoever. I don’t do bars anymore and most of the restaurants that I frequent did away with smoking on their own years ago. Still, I think the whole notion of banning smoking stinks. Government, at all levels, has a bad habit of ignoring it’s Constitutional boundaries.
Why do I feel that way? Am I all bent out of shape because someone’s rights are being taken away? Yes and no. Yes, I think that if you wish to smoke, you should be able to do so. I do not count smoking as a fundamental right. But every time we invite the government into our lives to correct some perceived social ill, we are slowly chipping away at our liberties. All that this really amounts to is government telling privately owned enterprises that they cannot allow anyone to engage in an otherwise legal behavior on their own privately owned property. “But we’re talking about a restaurant isn’t that a public place?” Yes and no. It is public in the sense that the general public can go there to eat, to drink, etc..,. It is NOT a publicly owned place. Restaurants are privately owned, not government owned and controlled. If a restaurant owner wishes to allow smoking that should be his or her right to do so. Likewise, it’s my right to not patronize their establishment.
I’ve also heard the argument that this is for the health and well-being of the employees of these businesses. Sorry, but that dog won’t hunt. You are not required by any law or entity to work in an environment where smoking is permitted. You have the option to seek other employment. I’ll say it again: the true core issue here is not the right to smoke or the right to be free from others smoking, but rather the rights of private business owners to allow an otherwise perfectly legal activity to take place inside their establishments. It’s that simple. Do you have a right to allow someone to smoke on your own property? No one forces you to patronize a business where people are smoking. Again, you have the right and the ability to choose to go elsewhere and most of you have made such a choice long before this ordinance was even a consideration. So just what have you gained? Nothing.
What about the secondhand smoke argument? Yeah, what about that? A 2013 study detailed in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute states that there is no “clear link” between secondhand smoke and lung cancer. And again, you have every right to not put yourself in situations where you must be in contact with secondhand smoke. This new ordinance seems to have been more about caving to political pressure than about public health. Yes, smoking can kill you. It’s dangerous and you shouldn’t do it. But at the end of the day it’s your body and if you wish to poison it, no government entity should have the right to tell you that you cannot do so. Government should not insert itself into private enterprise this way. Now, our already stretched police department will have to help enforce this ordinance, parking lots and other areas (20 feet from any public entrance, at least) will now become dumping grounds for cigarette butts and tempers will flare, at least for a while.
The bottom line is this: you don’t need all of this government regulation in your life. You are an intelligent, thinking individual, completely capable of making your own decisions. Those of you who do not smoke have, long ago, decided to not be near people and places who allow it. The likelihood that you will now suddenly start to patronize a restaurant, bar, night club or any other place that is now or soon to be smoke free is slim to none. Your habits most likely won’t change a bit. Smoker’s habits will have to change or they’ll be fined and asked to leave if they light up some where they should not. They’ll just find a new place to light up. We’ve eliminated nothing. We’ve just relocated it, at least until the door-to-door tobacco confiscations begin.