Smoke Gets In Your Lies
By Radley Balko
This is not about the rights of smokers to smoke in public. They are in an establishment someone else owns. Any bar or restaurant in this city may voluntarily go smoke free, and smokers would have no claim against them, except to take their business elsewhere. Indeed, more than 200 businesses in Washington, D.C. have done exactly that.
But this is not about non-smokers rights, either. You don't have the right to walk onto someone else's property, demand to be served food or drink someone else has bought, and demand that they serve you on your terms. Free societies don't work that way.
This isn't about worker's rights. The idea that the Washington, D.C. city council is banning public smoking to benefit the city's waiters, waitresses and bartenders is a canard. There are countless jobs and professions that are far more dangerous than serving food or drink in the presence of secondhand smoke. The people who choose those jobs -- cab drivers, fishermen, and police, for example -- take those jobs full-well knowing the risks. The health risks associated with secondhand smoke are debatable. But this simple fact isn't: A waiter or bartender who chooses to work for an establishment that allows smoking knows what kind of environment he'll be working in.
So what is this debate about? It's about freedom. It's about standing up to the healthists, those people who believe the state has not only the right, but the responsibility to police our personal lives for bad habits.
In this case, they want to trample on a business owner's property rights, on his right to reap the fruits of his investment and his labor as he sees fit, and on his right and the right of his patrons to freely associate with whom they please. Why do they want to do this? They say it's to protect the "public" from secondhand smoke. But exactly whom are they protecting?
Not the bar or restaurant owner. He could make the whole place smoke-free if he wanted.
Not the employees. They can work elsewhere. Or find a new line of work.
And certainly not the patrons. They're giving the bar or restaurant their business voluntarily.
The healthists aren't protecting anyone. What they're protecting is a "right" for themselves that they've fashioned out of whole cloth. They're fighting to get invited to the party, then make the rules once they get there. They want the so-called "right" to be self-appointed nanny, mother, rule maker, and rule enforcer for everyone else.