A View From the Cheap Seats

January 23, 2008

Looking Out For A Minority

Filed under: Smoking,State — trzupek @ 11:37 am
Tags: , ,

EXAMINER PUBLICATIONS – JANUARY 23, 2008

By Rich Trzupek

To quote Ayn Rand: “Individual rights are not subject to a public vote; a majority has no right to vote away the rights of a minority; the political function of rights is precisely to protect minorities from oppression by majorities.”

It may be unpopular to say so, but Smoke Free Illinois represented the kind of majority oppression that Rand envisioned.

It is reasonable, indeed desirable, for the majority of non-smokers to be spared the annoyance of smoke-filled establishments. At the same time, does not this particular minority have some rights too?

The sight of forlorn smokers, huddled in the cold outside of bars and restaurants, is like something out of George Orwell. Was this really the best solution: to exile an entire minority, from every single public place? Doesn’t everyone deserve a refuge or two of their own?

I believe that most reasonable non-smokers would agree that they do, if a way could be found that limited reasonably limited the amount of smoking establishments to a small number. Clearly the state is not willing to leave the choice of smoking or non-smoking up to the free market. OK. But it should be able to find a way to regulate this activity, just as it regulates so many others.

State Representative Randy Ramey has authored an entirely reasonable solution that would do just that. House Bill 4184 is a common-sense compromise that would allow communities to create a limited number of “safe-havens” for the smoking minority, while maintaining the status quo in the large part.

Under Ramey’s bill, local liquor commissions could issue smoking licenses to “eligible establishments” that meet certain requirements.

And what is an “eligible establishment”? Those would include:

•Bars where less than 10% of their total revenue comes from the sale of food.

•Riverboat casinos and horse racing tracks.

•Adult entertainment venues.

•Private clubs that can document that 3/5th of its members approve of smoking on the club’s premises.

•Establishments hosting conventions or expositions for the specific purpose of exhibiting or selling tobacco and tobacco-related products.

In addition, any establishment receiving a smoking license would be required to put up prominent signs that identify it as a place that allows smoking, and would have to provide full disclosure to all employees.

No doubt some alarmist groups will try to characterize this bill as “backsliding”, and will claim that it will rip the heart out of Smoke Free Illinois. That’s silly. A calm analysis of this reasonable, carefully-crafted bill can only lead to the conclusion that it will lead to the establishment of a small number of smoking establishments in a limited number of communities.

Undoubtedly, many towns will forgo issuing any smoking licenses. Some will grant licenses, but by definition the number they could issue would be small. Restaurants, the workplace and the vast majority of other public venues would remain smoke free.

Ramey, not a smoker himself, should be applauded for his courage. Championing smokers rights, even in this modest way, will undoubtedly provide fodder to his opposition in the upcoming election. No doubt we’ll see literature that claims he is trying to dismantle Smoke Free Illinois, is in the pocket of Big Tobacco, or other such nonsense.

Voters should not be fooled. HB 4184 merely establishes the mechanism by which some communities can create a limited number of isolated outposts where an unpopular minority can find some peace. And, in the final analysis, is that not democracy at its best?

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4 Comments »

  1. Scarily, the Ayn Rand quote is on target here. I agree that, no matter how dangerous smoking is, the Smoke Free Illinois legislation is too restrictive to an individual right to be self-destructive.

    Comment by Scott Casper — January 24, 2008 @ 2:40 pm | Reply

  2. I would use the same Ayn Rand quote in favor of the individual’s rights to breath clean (or at least cleaner air), in bars smokers seem to be the majority. The smokers should look at this as a way to chain-smoke less and save some god damned money, if not give them another year or two on their lives.

    Comment by Mike Connor — February 8, 2008 @ 8:12 am | Reply

  3. Mr. Connor’s comments represent the worst in American political thought.. i.e ” We the majority know what’s best for the minority ” There are still Americans who would prefer to Live Free or Die..

    Comment by Leonard Gore — February 9, 2008 @ 9:20 pm | Reply

  4. I HAVE NOT ANY COMMENT ABOUT THE RIGHTS OF THE PROPRIETERS TO DETERMINE IF THEY DO OR DON’T WANT A SMOKING ESTABLISHMENT. A LOT OF BARS AND RESTURANTS ARE IN TROUBLE AND IF THEY ARE IN TROUBLE SO IS REVENUE COLLECTED BY THE STATE. SO LET’S SEE BONE HEAD BLAGO SAY ILLINOIS IS IN A MONEY CRISIS SO LET’S SEE WHAT ELSE CAN WE DO TO CUT REVENUES. WHAT A ROCKET SCIENTIST. BEFORE THE BAN, AT LEAST WHERE I LIVE THERE WERE PLENTY OF NON SMOKING ESTABLISHMENTS SO EVERYBODY HAD A CHOICE.WELL THERE GOES,I THINK WE USED TO CALL IT FREEDOM. AND TO MR. CONNERS IF YOU HAVE ANY SPECIAL ACTIVITIES,OTHER THAN WORRING ABOUT MY HEALTH, JOGGING, DIET COKE, MAYBE DIPPING SNUFF ETC.HOW WOULD YOU LIKE BIG BROTHER TO END IT FOR YOU.

    Comment by BOB COFFEY — December 19, 2008 @ 8:06 am | Reply


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