Sunday, February 26, 2006

Smoking Bans In Force Soon

The Indy Star has a lengthy article in today's edition, discussing the smoking bans that will soon be in force around Central Indiana. Many of these bans take effect March 1.

I'll restate my position here. I do not smoke. I never have. I don't like second-hand smoke. When a place is too smoky for my liking, I leave. I never take my son or infant daughter into a place that allows smoking. However, I believe that while the health issues have strong merit, I also believe that the property rights of business owners come first. The property owners should have the right to set their own policies as regards their businesses on their properties. It should be sufficient to post a sign on the front door indicating the smoking policy at any establishment so that a customer can make the appropriate decision. Besides, tobacco is a legal product for adults in the United States.

Alas, this America has drifted away from its' land of the free status towards a nanny state, where decisions are made in everyone's best interest ahead of time, reducing the choices of business owners and customers alike.

Annie Tomey, a Greenfield restaurant owner, was quoted in this article, sounding these same notes:

While some places are adapting to the change, a group continues to lobby for a less restrictive ban. Among them is business owner Annie Tomey, 58, who has been one of the ban's most vocal critics.

She estimates that 80 percent of her patrons at Annie's Restaurant are smokers. She'll follow the ban when it goes into effect -- "or they're going to fine me to death" -- but she's not happy.

She and several other business owners have formed a coalition to change the law.

The smoking ban "is about taking our freedom of choice away from us," Tomey said.

As other area restaurants have voluntarily gone smoke-free in recent years, smokers have gravitated to her business, Tomey said.

"This is still the best country to live in," Tomey said. "But it's getting to the point where our politicians are going overboard."

I support Annie Tomey's property rights. Greenfield does not. Here I stood with Annie outside her restaurant in October, as Libertarians stood with her to oppose the then-proposed law.

Greenfield is not unlike other municipalities, who were swayed by the lobbying efforts of the American Heart Association and other groups. Again, I do not debate the dangers of cigarette smoke. I do debate the means by which we address the issue.

One of the compelling arguments the Heart Association makes is that society bears the medical costs associated with smoking. Unfortunately, that's increasingly true, as we have increasingly socialized medicine in this country. Since Americans are decreasingly responsible for their own health care costs, they can walk away from the cost consequences associated with bad health decision making. We wouldn't need health nannies if Americans were responsible for their choices. We wouldn't need health nannies if this example offered in the Star weren't so common:

Jennifer Deeter and her 3-year-old, Emma, ate lunch Thursday at the Hard Rock Cafe less than 10 feet from a man at the bar smoking an American Spirit cigarette.

Having her daughter so close to someone lighting up bothered Deeter. A smoker herself, the 32-year-old Irvington artist tries to abstain around her four children.
Why would a mother take a 3-year-old to lunch at the Hard Rock and allow the hostesss to seat them 10 feet from the bar? Is it honestly possible that she didn't know that the Hard Rock allowed smoking? Or, that people smoke at bars? Was it not possible for her to choose a smoke-free establishment to take her child to?

This is what it comes down to- selfish patrons wanting to have it both ways. "I'm here now, so you have to change". Cities bolster citizens who of their own volition would make bad choices unless the parameters are altered to make the place safe for them.

So, we are willing to sacrifice property rights to accomodate them. That's a real tragedy. This example reminds me of the family who builds a home alongside the railroad tracks that carried trains for the past 150 years in that spot, and then the family complains about the noise. It's arrogant and selfish. But more than that, it's irresponsible.

The result is that the intelligent business owners who had both smoking and non-smoking sections can no longer accomodate smokers and non-smokers. It doesn't matter how good the ventilation is. Unless the situation is like the Fishers Claude & Annie's, where the bar and restaurant are literally separated by a wall, the business owner has to choose to lose one segment of their clientele.

A number of Downtown restaurants focus on dining at lunch and drinks at night, but only a handful have chosen to cut out the lucrative market of family diners and become something more like a bar. The Slippery Noodle Inn, the Elbow Room and MacNiven's are among those choosing the adults-only route.

The choice is especially tough for steak houses, where cigars are part of the culture. Morton's and St. Elmo will go nonsmoking; Mo's and 14 West will not.

Most restaurants will choose to keep family dining and hope it doesn't hurt their bottom lines.

"What we may lose in smoking regulars, we may gain on the other side in families that choose to eat out more often," said Keith Reilly, manager of Champps, a Downtown restaurant where an aisle separates a large smoking bar area from the dining area.

"We hope" is no way to draw up a business plan. But arrogant lawmakers are unconcerned.
Nearly all of the establishments asking to allow smoking appear to be taverns that don't admit patrons younger than 21, said Greg Bowes, the City-County Council member who wrote the ordinance. There are 983 liquor or wine and beer permits in the county.

"I'm seeing it work exactly the way we anticipated," he said. "We specifically created a dilemma where places must choose between smokers and customers under 18. We felt that was the fairest way to make a distinction between bars and restaurants."

Tremendous! Councilor Bowes intended to create a dilemma for business owners! Isn't that helpful?

Actually, that's revisionist history and bunk. When Libertarians confronted Bowes during one of our pub crawls in support of the bar owners, he appeared and confessed that he hadn't given a single bit of thought to how it would affect property owners. His sole concern was health.

Again, it's good to be concerned about health. A nice educational campaign would have achieved that without limiting anybody's rights. The affect on property owners was an unintended consequence.

Isn't it time to have lawmakers who keep property rights as a primary focus rather than the object of secondary outcomes? If you think so, you need to vote Libertarian. The smoking bans were passed in the following locations, with the following majorities on their councils:

Indianapolis/Marion County- Democrat
Carmel- Reublican
Greenfield- Republican
Greenwood- Republican
Bloomington- Democrat


Ed Gluck said...

Well said Mike. For those who work in nonfamily owned businesses I guess they have the choice of not smoking and working or smoking and not working. How much does Marion County expect to pay for the latter?

Michael said...

As you so eloquently point out it is the "myth" of property rights that is under assault, as well as the rights of adults to choose. I say "myth" because it is becoming increasingly clear that property rights in Indiana are a myth. From poperty taxes to eminent domain abuse to smoking ordinances we can see that government has managed to do away with privately property for all intents and purposes. None of own our own homes or businesses. We have no say about how we run them. Shoot, for Indiana being mid-America we sure are starting to resemble places like Massachusettes.For a state that is supposedly run by "conservative" Republicans we certainly see a great deal of socialism being enacted from the ground up.

GadFlier said...

The Republican party is now dominated by Jacksonians. Jacksonianism is a political doctrine that is based on two pillars: 1: The United States must maintain strong military defense. 2: The government is justified taking whatever steps it deems necessary in "defending" our society against all perceived internal "threats" whether or not they manifest in rebellion or conspiracy to rebellion. The Madisonian/Jeffersonian political debate has long since been replaced by a Hamiltonian/Jacksonian fight. Indeed, Hamiltonianism and Jacksonianism are now so dominant that would-be Jeffersonians and Madisonians find themselves finding far more common ground than differences in the current day.

Mike Kole said...

These are terms that, sadly, most Americans aren't aware of.

Of course, the Republican Party emerged from the ashes of the Whig Party, both of which held the following as their chief pillars: high tariffs on foreign trade, and using public funding to improve internal infrastructure.

It seems that in these, the GOP hasn't budged an inch in 150 years! Whether Major Moves today, or canals & railroads in the 1840s & 1850s, they've been consistent- not for the better. The Jacksonian component is tacked on. It would have been bewildering to Clay, Lincoln, Seward, and other prominent Whigs & Republicans of that era.