Freedom: Up in smoke

First Posted: 11/29/2009

Another stake will be driven into the heart of tobacco on Jan. 2 when a state law banning smoking from bars, restaurants and lodging establishments takes effect.
While it is billed as a ban in public venues, the law, which is intended to protect non-smokers from secondhand smoke, does something quite different. The affected establishments are private, not public, like the county courthouse, city hall or the Department of Social Services, which is why we oppose the ban, no matter how worthy its goal.
The county Health Department sent letters informing the affected establishments of the new law last month, and this week a kit will be sent to help the businesses prepare. Some establishments are out in front of the curve, their owners understanding that banning smoking is an option they can offer as a way to lure patrons, not unlike an all-you-can-eat buffet, which might match smoking for unhealthiness, or a live band.
Regardless of the well-established health hazards, smoking remains legal and some people still enjoy lighting up, but establishments, bars and lodge will be banned from offering what is essentially an amenity.
We dont doubt that the ban will save lives. But so would enforcing a two-drink maximum at a restaurant or bar, which would reduce the number of drunken drivers on our roads while also giving a bunch of livers a holiday, but dont expect that to happen. Lawmakers have been quite bold in their attack on tobacco, but cowardly when it comes to alcohol.
Our question remains the same: Where will it all end?
The federal government, with President Obama blazing the trail, appears intent on wresting control of health care away from individual Americans, and with each victory, there will be more incentive for well-intentioned laws to achieve a healthier nation and reduce medical costs.
The next front for this war some salvos have already been fired will be controlling what Americans consume. Are you ready to give up your sugar, your butter, your barbecue?
Dont laugh, which is what you would have done 20 years ago if someone had suggested that North Carolina, the king of tobacco, would outlaw smoking in bars, restaurants and lodges.
We are all for a healthier America, but were not all in, not when it means an incremental rollback of the freedoms that our citizens enjoy liberties that separate us from everybody else.

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