Last week, the New York City council approved a ban on smoking in the city’s parks and on its beaches. Surprisingly, considering the nanny-state mentality of New York City, one-fourth of the city council actually voted against the ban.
But despite the efforts on the part of the sane members of the city council, the ban passed.
During the heated debate over whether to enact the law, New York City Councilman Leroy Comrie said, if “we start going after individual personal liberties,” we’ll end up with tyranny.
To which I would say, “amen.”
The problem is, he then voted for the ban, because, he said, his teenage kids told him he should. Which reminds me of that quote from Patrick Henry: “Give me liberty unless my teenage kids don’t want it, then vote against it.”
Mayor Bloomberg has pledged to sign off on the law, and in 90 days you could face penalties for smoking in Central Park or on any of New York City’s beaches.
Whether you smoke or not, you’ve got to face the reality that this is as ridiculous as the city’s board of health passing a ban on trans-fat in 2006.
How far should the government go in legislating the actions of its people?
Not this far.
I don’t think anyone is debating the danger of smoking or the wisdom of being a non-smoker. But for a city, or state for that matter, to legislate where someone can smoke is an infringement on personal liberty.
I’m not a libertarian by any stretch of the imagination, but overreaching laws like this cause me to take a reactionary step in that direction.
If someone wants to be unhealthy, if someone wants to destroy their lungs, if someone wants to smoke, let them.
As Speaker of the House John Boehner said recently in an interview regarding his use of cigarettes, “It’s a legal product. I choose to smoke. Leave me alone.”
I want to clear the air before I go on.
I’ve never smoked, and I never will light up a cigarette. I would counsel anyone who has thought about starting to stay a non-smoker. And anyone who smokes right now, I would highly suggest stopping.
But my anti-smoking views don’t make the New York City council’s ban any better in my eyes.
Proponents of placing bans on smoking will quote statistics all day long about how second-hand smoke causes cancer in non-smokers. And I don’t necessarily doubt the veracity of those statistics.
But how much air is there outside? It’s not like someone smoking in the same park that you’re walking in will cause you to contract throat or lung cancer. If you feel like you’re in danger of inhaling cigarette smoke from a passing smoker, and that concerns you, then step about two feet away, and you’ll be in the clear.
New York City isn’t alone in legislating ridiculous anti-smoking laws.
Municipalities all across the US are working to ban smoking, even in private businesses. I’m more than happy if local governments want to stop people from smoking in government buildings. But if you don’t like the fact that a private business allows its customers to smoke, then take your business somewhere else.
And please, don’t whine about it.
If you don’t like smoking, then ban it in your house.
But keep your hands off that smoker’s cigarettes. If he wants to destroy his lungs, then he should have the right to do so, even in a New York City park.
This all comes back to who should have the final say in how you live your life. If you’re one of those people who don’t like cigarette smoke, and I would count myself among that group, then don’t go places where you’ll have to be around it.
But don’t try to ban smoking in the open air or in private businesses. This is, after all, still a free country, even for smokers.
(Elijah Friedeman, author of The Millennial Perspective, is the grandson of Janice Friedeman, Great Bend. His columns can also be heard on his father, Matt Friedeman’s, radio program on American Family Radio.)