January 6, 2006

Ban the Ban

On Wednesday, the DC Council approved a smoking ban prohibiting smoking in restaurants and bars across the city. You can read about it here. It was an 11 to 1 vote, with Carol Schwartz the sole dissenter. The ban would immediately affect restaurants, with bars and clubs to follow next year. Thankfully, Mayor Williams has expressed some hesitation about a ban. This is despite the fact that if he goes ahead with a veto, he can be overruled. But it sure is nice to hear a sane voice every now and then. Schwartz was actually 100% correct.

Schwartz said the issue was personal choice and freedom. "Don't make me out that I like smoking, because I don't," said Schwartz, an ex-smoker. "Bar and restaurant workers have a choice of where to work, and patrons have a choice of where to patronize."

The whole exemption thing is a joke as well.

The longest debate was over whether to exempt the city's eight hookah bars, where people smoke tobacco out of a shared pipe. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) argued that hookah bars should be exempt because tobacco use is the central focus of their business.

Schwartz then jumped on Graham. "If it's all in the guise of protecting worker health, why would you want to kill off the hookah bar workers?" she said to laughs in the packed council chambers. "The hypocrisy is just astounding."

Smoking is a legal activity. I am not suggesting that all of us non-smokers should be forced to sit in clouds of smoke as we try to eat dinner. But what I am saying is that each of us has a choice. Some restaurants have chosen to go smoke free, others haven't. For those of us who have a problem with smoke, we can choose to eat at smoke-free places. For those of us who don't mind sitting in the non-smoking section , can eat at both "types" of restaurants. And if you want to smoke, you can just pick a restaurant that allows it. It is quite simple, actually.

If a restaurant that allows smoke realizes that my crossing over they can make more money, don't you think they'd do it? You bet they would. If each and every restaurant was a smoke-free environment, I wouldn't be too bothered if it was achieved naturally. We just don't need the government coming into areas that, quite honestly, they are completely unneeded.

There are three groups of people whose freedom of choice has been eliminated by the passage of this single bill: the people who eat at restaurants, those who own them, and those who work at them. I think all of us can fit into at least one of these categories. So I guess the government has just made one more choice on all of our behalves. How nice of them. I mean, what else can they spend their time and energy on? I guess everything else in DC is just great.

I truly hope that anybody who believes in personal freedom supports this ban. I mean, if you don't believe in personal freedom, that's completely cool. We are all free (thankfully) to opinion. At a time when Americans are worried about violated liberties with secret monitored telephone calls (which unless you connected with Al-Qaeda so much so that your personal phone number is in their address book and you receive calls from the middle east, you don't really need to worry), here we have the choice of restaurants publicly removed. I'm proud to be an American, where at least I know I'm free*.

*except in certain areas including restaurant type

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