Here in New Hampshire, we are teetering on following our fellow New England states in passing a comprehensive no-smoking law, that would ban lighting up in restaurants in lounges. The proposed law has passed the House and is headed for the Senate — where the fight is looking uncertain. Our governor (a Democrat) has not, to the best of my knowledge, said whether or not he would sign the bill.
Now, I am a militant anti-smoker. Both my parents died of smoking-related causes. I cannot stand the smell of smoke. I will do almost any favor for a friend, but I will never aid and abet them in getting cigarettes. If a virus were to suddenly sweep the globe and render the tobacco plant extinct tomorrow, I would rejoice.
But above that I put principle and freedom.
No one is compelled to visit — or even work in — a place that tolerates smoking. People are always free to vote with their feet, vote with their wallets, and decide whether or not they want to frequent such places. Several years ago a Manchester 24-hour diner (the Red Arrow) decided to make the switch after decades and ban smoking. Many predicted it would be the diner’s death-knell. Instead, their business actually increased.
Likewise, one lawmaker cited one of her constituents, who had just spent almost $20,000 installing a ventilation system to keep the smoke away from the non-smokers. Should the law pass, the restaraunt in question will have wasted all that money it spent in complying with the current law.
I’ve been to restaurants that have smoking sections. I don’t like them — I almost always end up getting a whiff or two of smoke, and it annoys me and throws me off my meal. But I have a simple choice — I can simply go elsewhere, and give my hard-earned dollars to those businesses that act in a way with which I agree.
But I certainly don’t need to get the power of the state behind me. They ought to have more important matters to deal with — or, most importantly, simply do nothing.
That’s one of the nice things about New Hampshire and our part-time legislature (we pay them $100 per YEAR for serving). They seldom feel “obligated” to earn their pay by simply passing new laws, like seems to happen so often in Massachusetts.