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California's draconian anti-smoking law

In a few days, as the new year rolls in, California will make a giant retreat from America’s tradition of celebrating and protecting private property, personal rights and individual freedom.

On Jan. 1, the final stages of the state’s draconian anti-smoking law will take effect. It will prohibit smoking in restaurants, bars, casinos — even private clubs.

Now, I don’t care if you’re a smoker or not. I, myself, like a good cigar now and again, but that’s not the point. This law represents one more nail in the coffin of America’s essential freedoms. What do I mean?

Well, such laws are passed in state legislatures, city councils and county boards under the guise of protecting the “rights” of non-smokers. That’s the excuse governments have used to empower themselves. But that’s all it is — an excuse, a rationalization.

Because, in a free society, people have the choice to patronize establishments in which they feel comfortable and to avoid those in which they do not. If, indeed, there is a huge demand for restaurants, bars, casinos and private clubs that forbid smoking, logic would dictate that they would be created — that they would flourish on their own, without the need for government mandate. Likewise, in a free society, you would think that the owners of those establishments would have the right to make their own rules about such matters, just as a private homeowner would.

Supporters of such outrageous bans say they protect non-smoking employees. But don’t they, too, have the choice in a free society to work where they want? What will become of these employees when their customers stop patronizing bars because they can’t smoke? Will they be better off without jobs than with employment that occasionally exposes them to the supposedly ill-effects of some second-hand smoke?

The all-wise government officials who think they understand the marketplace better than business people argue that non-smokers will start streaming into bars under the new rules knowing that they will be able to breathe easier. I don’t believe that for a minute. But, even if it’s true, why is the government trying to encourage such a thing? Is it in the public interest to encourage more people to patronize bars to consume alcohol?

And, hey, why not ban casinos and bars altogether? Again, nothing but unhealthy activity — gambling and drinking — takes place in them? Where does such nanny-state thinking stop?

With such extreme laws being approved around the country, you have to wonder how long it will be before government tries to dictate to people what they can do in the privacy of their own homes. After all, everyone has visitors, delivery people, mail carriers, etc., come to their home from time to time. Then there’s the question of children and their health. Isn’t a prohibition of smoking in homes the logical next step? Isn’t that a more compelling argument than protecting grown-ups tending bar or serving drinks?

Former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, one of the leading architects of the new nanny state, thinks so. He predicts criminal charges against parents “can’t be far off.”

If you think that’s a far-fetched scenario, consider the case of Davis, Calif., which has banned smoking within 20 feet of all public buildings — even from public sidewalks.

But I don’t get it. There’s something here that doesn’t compute. The anti-smoking zealots keep telling us that this is an addiction — that people can’t help themselves, can’t stop once they start, that they are innocent victims of greedy tobacco companies which should be extorted for more and more financial reparations.

If this is true, why aren’t smokers being treated like victims of a disease under such laws? Why are they being systematically shunned while the very same public officials approving these repressive laws are seeking wider and broader protections for victims of deadly diseases like AIDS?

Once again, the only answer that comes to me is that such laws are really not about protecting people. They are about increasing the power of government over the lives of individuals.

Americans have forgotten the principles that made this country great — freedom, individual rights, personal responsibility. If you’re a non-smoker, you may not think such laws threaten your freedom. I have news for you. When the inalienable rights of one are threatened, the inalienable rights of all of us are.