Another freedom goes up in smoke

Before I begin, let me get one thing clear: I don’t smoke. I never have smoked. I never will smoke. I loathe cigarettes with a deep and abiding passion, fueled in large part by my mother’s death from complications of smoking. I can’t stand the smell of cigarettes, I think anyone who smokes is at least seventeen kinds of idiot, and under no circumstances will I ever do anything to help someone smoke.

That being said, I want to voice my disgust at Massachusetts lawmakers yet again (this could be a standing headline for me) with their latest efforts.

A while ago, Massachusetts passed a sweeping anti-smoking law that forbade lighting up in any public place. Restaurants, bars, night clubs, nowhere was spared.

(The really beautiful irony was that it was only a few years ago that Massachusetts required businesses invest in some heavy-duty equipment to keep the air clear between the smoking and non-smoking areas. Businesses sunk tens of thousands of dollars into those machines, only to find them utterly useless within a couple years when the state said no smoking areas, period.)

The sole exception from the iron fist of the legislature were private, members-only clubs. There, the members could continue to puff away to their (distressed) hearts’ content.

Some places got around this ban by becoming “instant” private clubs, where membership for the evening could be had for a buck or so. Other groups, like the Elks or the Veterans of Foreign Wars, found themselves under the legislators’ eyes because they rent their halls out to the public. With that as their excuse, they’re now looking at redefining just what a “private” club is in regards to the smoking ban.

Now, personally, I happen to favor smoking bans. When restaurants had smoking sections, I preferred to sit as far from them as possible. And when I wish to visit certain locations renowned for their male-oriented entertainment (and also usually very smoke-filled), I either put on old clothing that I don’t mind if they end up reeking or not go (and find another use for my one dollar bills). I think I’d like such places to forbid smoking, but I don’t see that happening any time soon.

And I certainly don’t want the state making those decisions. There is absolutely NO compelling public interest in micromanaging businesses to that degree. Let the people decide whether or not they wish to patronize places that welcome smoking, and let the free market decide which places will succeed and which will fail.

New Hampshire has such a system, and it seems to work. A very popular 24-hour diner here in Manchester decided to go non-smoking a few years ago, and everyone expected it would fail miserably. Instead, business actually picked up, and the Red Arrow is now more popular than ever.

But that’s New Hampshire. We’re the “Live Free Or Die” state. We’re talking about Massachusetts, “The Cradle Of Liberty,” and anyone who chooses to live in a cradle shouldn’t whine when they’re treated like a baby by the Nanny State.


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