March 28, 2007

Public Smoking Ban Passes State Senate

Yesterday, a family member came in from California to spend some time with the First Mate before her transplant on Friday. When she made the plan, we had assumed that the FM would be home until Thursday evening, but as it turns out, the doctors wanted her in the hospital for the entire week in order to keep her blood pressure under close observation. I took our visitor to dinner, and when we were asked by the hostess whether we wanted to sit in smoking or non-smoking, the Californian expressed surprise that Minnesota still allowed businesses to have smoking sections.

As it turns out, she just came out a few weeks too early. The state Senate passed its version of a statewide public smoking ban yesterday, one of the first significant acts to come out of the enhanced DFL (Democratic) majority:

The Minnesota Senate voted 41-24 on Tuesday to approve a sweeping, statewide smoking ban that would eliminate most indoor smoking in public places, including bars and restaurants, beginning Aug. 1.

The bill prohibits smoking in public places, aboard public transportation and at public meetings. Violations would be petty misdemeanors.

The measure allows bars, restaurants and bingo halls to build outdoor smoking patios. Electricity and heating would be allowed on the patios but not food or beverage service.

When California passed its smoking ban years ago, I didn't think too much about it. I had stopped smoking cigarettes by that time, and even when I did smoke, I found bars and bowling alleys to be so drenched in smoke that I had quit patronizing them long before. Some friends complained about being inconvenienced, but I didn't have much sympathy. Frankly, I enjoyed going to restaurants and other public accommodations without coming home smelling like an ashtray.

A statewide ban makes more sense than what Minnesota has done before now. Several cities and communities have passed similar bans, such as Saint Paul. Bar owners and restauranteurs have reported stark decreases in business as a result, because their smoking customers simply go to another community for their entertainment. A statewide ban would eliminate that problem, except on border communities like Stillwater and Duluth, for instance.

However, I am no longer so sanguine about these laws. It seems to me that a business owner should be able to set his own rules about the custom he wants, and if he or she doesn't mind smokers in the establishment, the state should not tell them any different. If the state has a great untapped consumer pool of people like me who would hang out in bars every night if it weren't for those darned smokers, bars that banned smoking would pull in good business. That has not been the case, and even it if was, those owners who don't mind smokers would still have the right to serve them.

No one doubts that the proponents of these bans have their hearts in the right place, but it opens a troubling precedent. Once we establish that the state has an interest which overrides two key rights -- the right to assemble and the right to private property -- just to modify personal behavior that the state considers unhealthy, where will they stop? Will Minnesota, like New York City, attempt to ban trans-fats from restaurants? Will we have two-drink limits at bars as well?

Smoking cigarettes is unhealthy and foolish. I was fortunate enough to give them up without too much trouble, and I only smoke a cigar about once or twice a year these days. However, unless the state wants to criminalize tobacco, then it really has no business dictating to bar owners and restauranteurs that they cannot serve smokers, even outside in a patio area.

UPDATE: I should credit Chad the Elder and Brian Ward from Fraters Libertas for helping me change my mind on this issue. We have had several debates on this over the past few years, and they have been very convincing.


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» Minnesota State Senate Passes 'Public' Smoking Ban from Diggers Realm
The Minnesota State Senate seems to have confused what the word "public" means as it has passed a "public" smoking ban. The ban is on smoking in most indoor "public" places. The only problem is that this includes private bars... [Read More]

» Minnesota State Senate Passes 'Public' Smoking Ban from Diggers Realm
The Minnesota State Senate seems to have confused what the word "public" means as it has passed a "public" smoking ban. The ban is on smoking in most indoor "public" places. The only problem is that this includes private bars... [Read More]

Comments (22)

Posted by docjim505 [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 28, 2007 5:19 AM

I don't smoke. I don't appreciate it when people around me smoke. I think smoking is an unhealthy habit that people would be better off to quit.

That being said, bans of this sort are ridiculous. If the government believes that cigarettes present such a health hazard, then they should be outlawed in the same way that we outlaw marijuana, cocaine, etc.

The reason that the government doesn't do that is because they just LOOOOOVE to spend the revenue collected from taxing this pernicious habit.

So keep on smoking, America (just not outside your house, please): Senator Twiddle needs more money to hire his brother-in-law to build that highway!

Posted by syn [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 28, 2007 5:20 AM

Ban vegan eaters from the public square , their farts are killers.

Posted by Chris Hunt [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 28, 2007 5:40 AM

Oh, I'm sure that their hearts are in the right place. I'm also sure that their heads don't mind expanding the reach of government into peoples' private lives.

Edicts of this type are an assault on private property, one of the cornerstones of free societies. If the state can tell me what I can and cannot do inside my own property, why can't the state tell me how I can use that property, or better still, how they could use it?

Posted by RonC [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 28, 2007 6:34 AM

Non-smokers cannot whine about the loss of freedom in this country when they sit idle and allow smoking bans to be enacted without massive protest.

Give socialists an inch and they'll take a mile - and they've been doing it for well over 100 years in the US - with little to no real protest.

In California I've watched hundreds of businesses close their doors because of smoking bans, which included some of the finest nightclubs and dinning establishments in the state.

Most who could moved out of state, Nevada a chief beneficiary, but now that state, plagued with former Californian leftists who fled the mess they made here, is enacting ever greater smoking restrictions. Vegas is not happy...

Some counties in New Mexico have told the smoke-banners to butt out - forcefully so, and people still smoke in restaurants there. Anyone who complains is told to leave - and I don't mean smokers.

I asked why, and was told that if smoking could be banned in the state, any and all other freedoms could also be banned. I was impressed - they understood.

It is sad that most people in the US don't understand that they are seeing the end of their own personal freedoms.

Posted by steve sturm [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 28, 2007 6:40 AM

I disagree that this is a case of misguided do-gooders with their hearts in the right place. There's nothing 'right' about a bunch of sanctimonious elitists seeking to force all of us to live by the standards they've set for themselves. And there's nothing 'right' with twisting the science to claim that the undesired behavior is unhealthy, whether it is secondhand smoke or driving an SUV. It's almost enough to make me want to start smoking (I already drive an SUV).

As an aside, just imagine the outroar if someone proposed making it illegal to engage in a particular sexual act that was 'proven' by science to be somewhat risky. The potential health benefits of such a ban would be drowned out by the cries of 'intolerance' and 'privacy'... and rightly so.

Posted by NavySpy II [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 28, 2007 6:45 AM

Their hearts may be in the right place, but their heads are up their collective a**es.

Out of curiosity, I want to open an establishment named "Smoker's Lounge". This business would serve light snacks and drinks, and would NOT include a non-smoking area. And post glaring notices to that effect. Why can't I?

Anyone entering the place would know that smokers congregate there, and I would have the air cleansing equipment neccessary to prevent the exit air from affecting anyone nearby.

This decision is the jack boot. It crushes any thought that private property still exists, if Kelo left you any hopes.

Posted by TomB [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 28, 2007 6:50 AM

In Canada there is a growing displeasure towards people smoking in their own apartments. If anybody thought, that it is simply restaurants, so it is OK, think again. You can never be too careful with the “second hand smoke”, which creeps in through cracks in the walls and hydro outlets and kills our children. Apparently affected are condominiums and rental buildings.

Posted by Kevin Fleming [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 28, 2007 7:18 AM

This is no small matter. HL Mencken correctly noted that "The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false front for the urge to rule it."

The next step will be attempts to save us from obesity, and on and on from there. It's already happening in Minnesota:
"A task force with Mayo Clinic and others in Rochester are moving fast to get anti-obesity legislation in front of the Minnesota Legislature this year."

In England, the state has mandated that parents teach certain lullabyes to their kids, and failure to do so is evidence of insufficient parenting skill.

Posted by TomB [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 28, 2007 7:38 AM

I wonder how they are going to pull the "Second Hand Obesity" concept.
I think we should also ban unwashed people, I can already envision the "Feet Sniffing Police Force".
The sad part is that nonsense and idiocy dies hard.

Posted by NoDonkey [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 28, 2007 7:46 AM

Our state and local governments need to focus on things that actually matter and not on enforcing trendy junk science prohibitions.

Why focus on petty trivialities like smoking, which even if it does kill someone, takes 50 years? And ignore the real killers, like the lunatics on our highways? Who actually do kill people every single day.

If there are enough wet nurses out there to tattle on bars that allow people to smoke, why aren't there enough cops on the road, to enforce traffic laws already on the book?

Why are traffic licenses distributed like Halloween candy? Besides fogging a mirror, what driving skill must today's new drivers display at the DMV? The ability to make a right turn from the far left lane, without a turn signal?

Government needs to focus on the basic things it should be doing, like keeping incompetent and dangerous drivers off of the highways, rather than spending a single second enforcing inane anti-smoking laws.

Posted by unclesmrgol [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 28, 2007 7:51 AM

And don't forget about fuel trucks and tunnels. If an owner wants to drive a fuel truck through a tunnel his tax dollars paid for, he should have the right.

And don't forget about methamphetamines. If I want to brew some in the privacy of my own apartment and the owner doesn't mind, why shouldn't I be able to?

After all, the owner is pope on his own property, isn't he?

Posted by M. Simon [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 28, 2007 8:56 AM

Tobacco is an anti-depressant.

Posted by mshyde [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 28, 2007 9:14 AM

I wonder when the smoking speakeasies are going to start popping up.
Next will be the growing tobacco
black market.
It will be interesting when the do gooders get bit in
the ass when something they do or advocate will
be made illegal.
Have they thought yet about banning the manufacturing
of rope? You know double edged sword and all...

Posted by The Elder [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 28, 2007 10:12 AM

I'm glad to see that you've finally come around on this issue Ed.

Posted by grognard [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 28, 2007 10:18 AM

At one time the Conservative ideal was that I allow you more freedom, you reciprocate and allow me more freedom, and together we have the ability to run our lives the way we see fit. When it came to Gays in the military Goldwater said soldiers need to shoot straight, not be straight. In other words if you don’t like someone else’s life style too bad, giving them the freedom to do what they want in turn gives you the freedom to do what you want. The modern Conservative movement has abandoned that principle a long time ago. To be intellectually consistent the outrage would not stop at smoking bans, it would include bans on Gay marriage, drug use, porn, and a host of other lifestyle choices. Now the only difference between liberalism and conservatism is what aspects of our lives they want the nanny government to regulate. Smoking or gay marriage, drug use or trans fats, a restriction is a restriction. Now put that in your pipe and smoke it [sorry couldn’t resist].

Posted by NahnCee [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 28, 2007 12:10 PM

Sounds to me like the Captain is against the smoking ban because someone from California is for it.

Wait until they get around to banning smoking in outside areas like football and baseball stadiums. :-)

Posted by physics geek [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 28, 2007 12:32 PM

"No one doubts that the proponents of these bans have their hearts in the right place, but it opens a troubling precedent. Once we establish that the state has an interest which overrides two key rights -- the right to assemble and the right to private property -- just to modify personal behavior that the state considers unhealthy, where will they stop?"

The governor here in VA is proposing a similar bill. A well-intentioned co-worked sent out an email asking everyone to support this latest government intrusion into our lives. He didn't phrase it that way, of course. Anyway, my response pretty much mirrored your's due (1) cigarettes are legal and (2) the businesses are privately owned. I even sent a link to the Wikipedia entry for the Tragedy of the Commons.

Not surprisingly. I haven't heard back from him. Turns out that people are awfully sanguine about the club of the state when it's not their ox getting gored.

Posted by SwabJockey05 [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 28, 2007 2:05 PM


You are wrong on gays. There are gays in the military, they are just not allowed to flaunt their "life style" then force straights to shower with them.

Cripples and Fat people are the ones who are discriminated against in the Military...not gays.

I agree with the rest of your comments. I don't care if you smoke crack in your bathroom while you play with yourself...your house. None of my business. Those are political / thought crimes.

But if you break into my house in an attempt to terrorize my family...or to steal my TV to support your drug habit, now you've committed a real crime against my person or my property. No longer a “thought crime”.

However, that particular scenario would involve ACP rounds vice the "justice system".

Posted by Achillea [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 28, 2007 2:23 PM

Once we establish that the state has an interest which overrides two key rights -- the right to assemble and the right to private property -- just to modify personal behavior that the state considers unhealthy, where will they stop?

While I agree with you regarding your main point, my inner nitpicker wants me to point out that, strictly speaking, the right to assemble isn't being overridden. It's a ban on smoking, not on smokers, so they're free to assemble, just not light up while they do so.

Posted by grognard [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 28, 2007 2:46 PM

SwabJockey, there are gays in the military, they just can‘t say anything about it. That’s like saying blacks can join the army but they have to wear whiteface and not talk about it. Nonsense, there might need to be segregated showers, in the same way men and women are not showering together, but the fact they are gay should have no bearing on serving their country. Otherwise we are in agreement, gays can get married, I get to own a gun, more freedom all around is better for everyone. If you get drunk fine, just don’t get in a car, if you like porn fine, but you still can’t use children in a video. There are restrictions to total freedom, but my owing a gun does not endanger my neighbor if I act responsibly. If my neighbors are a married gay couple, so what, not my business. Granting more freedom does not mean I might not like the choices other people make but if we leave each other alone we both get to enjoy our freedom from the nannies, left and right.

Posted by SwabJockey05 [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 28, 2007 3:30 PM


Agree except on the gays. Your assertion that there can be segregated showers is absurd. Who gets to use the "gay" showers...just the gay sailors? What about the gay females? Do we have four showers and berthing male/straight male gay female / straight female? Have you seen how small the ships and subs are...ain't enough space. Plus isn't having "segretaged" showers with just gays using them kinda like having women shower with men? Aren't they sexually attracted to each other?

We don't force women to shower with men in the navy even though there are rules against certain behaviors.

You say the Don't Ask Don't tell infringes on the gay...I say forcing a straight guy to shower with a gay guy (who 10 minutes priviously had politely asked the straight guy to go on a date) is an infringment on the straight guy.

There are far more straights than suggest it's better to infringe on the that to make up for some past "wrongs"? Maybe even "punishment"?

Gays are not discriminated against in the military...cripples and fat people are not the gays.

Posted by SoldiersMom [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 28, 2007 5:11 PM

The ONLY thing I want the Government doing for me is provide a military and fund road projects. That's it! In theory, they should finance public schools, but that's proven disasterous; and my husband teaches in a public school.

Governments don't take personal choices/freedoms away in large swoops; they take them in little bites at a time. They're not as painful that way. I wish someone would compile a list of all the freedoms we've lost in the Country in the last 100 years. I resent the law requires that I wear a seat belt. I choose to wear one, but it makes me angry that I could be ticketed if I don't. My husband wears a helmet when he rides his motorcycle, again out of choice. Makes me angry that the law requires he wears it though. These are just a couple of things. I'm sure, if we thought about all our lost freedoms, the list would grow astronomically. The recent eminent domain decision is another area of contention with me. Having to pay Social Security pisses me off. I'm also socially liberal in that I don't give a damn what gays do. Why shouldn't they be allowed to marry and fight it out in divorce court like the rest of us. I also believe in a woman's right to choose an abortion. I don't think Government funds should pay for it though.

No longer is there a party for those us who espouse a live and let live philosophy. Used to be conservatives were close, but they're as bad as todays' "progressives."