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Commentary: Why Everyone Should Care About Smoking Bans

12 Jan 2012

Back in 2003 when New York City passed a smoking ban in all bars and restaurants, critics said it was only the beginning of the new expanded nanny state powers. Despite such pleas while the law was being debated and enacted, few non-smokers joined the battle against the smoking ban, leaving the battle to tobacco-using adults, bar owners worried about their businesses, property rights advocates, and retailers and manufacturers in the tobacco business.

Now, nine years later, a look at the many laws in New York shows that smoking was just the beginning. In the time since then, a ban on selling food cooked with trans fats has gone into effect, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has also gone after sugar-rich sodas. Bloomberg has pushed for reduced salt in prepared foods and the city council even proposed a complete ban on restaurants cooking with salt. And now the New York Post reports Bloomberg has his nanny-state sites set on alcohol.

In other words, smokers were just the beginning of the paternalistic crusade that now impacts everyone who eats food cooked with salt or trans fats, smokes in bars, drinks soda, or wants a glass of wine or a beer. If Mayor Bloomberg gets his way, good luck getting a rum and coke, or a margarita with salt, let alone a fine cigar to enjoy with them.

It’s an important lesson to remember the next time a non-smoker says that, although they don’t think the government should stop a bar owner from allowing smoking on their property, they still won’t oppose the smoking ban because they don’t like the smell of smoke on their clothes after a night out.

When they tell you that (as I’ve been told many times), remind them that smoking bans are not the end, but just the beginning. Remind them that once you start encouraging government to restrict people’s choices in the name of “public health” it will inevitably be used to restrict their choices. New York’s smoking ban was once an anomaly, but since it’s become the model for countless smoking bans elsewhere.

Fat, salt, sugar, tobacco, alcohol…they are all targets of the nanny state, and sooner or later everyone will be affected. Just ask the citizens of New York City.

Patrick S

photo credit: Flickr

3 Responses to “Commentary: Why Everyone Should Care About Smoking Bans”

  1. NTA_Shawn Thursday, January 12, 2012 at 11:06 am #

    Once the finances if the city start getting crunched do to the lack of alcohol sales, im sure he'll realize he made a mistake. I can understand trying to help out the public with thier health, but a ban on alcohol would only bring back speakeasies. Let people do what they want to do, then if they make "mistakes" with thier action, then you punish them.

    • Tony Palazzolo Friday, January 13, 2012 at 9:40 am #

      They could care less about finances. For them it will certainly be made up tenfold with money saved from healthcare expenses.

      However, I will say that is not a bad thing. They are going after something that a majority of people care about. This should get the publics attention. There can be little doubt that this and the CDC recent "5 drinks is binge drinking" are very much related.

  2. CJ Reaims Monday, January 16, 2012 at 10:10 pm #

    Patrick, as a NYC resident, I am appalled by Mike Bloomberg's decision making process most of the time. Going after ways people, eat, drink and enjoy themselves, is nothing short of a police state. Honestly though, without getting too politcal, the Manhattanites and the young, liberal crowd from places like Williamsburg and Long Island City, that are considered hip are allowing this to push through. We hear about it in the Village Voice and other methods of propaganda that aren't kosher with how most of us New Yorkers think. Do many New Yorkers take a leftist slant? Sure. But not enough to allow this to happen without the Bloomberg cronies being put into government to allow it happen.