Old Drum

Commentary on Warrensburg, Johnson County and Missouri issues from a Libertarian perspective. View my earlier commentary at www.olddrum.net.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Warrensburg smoking ban?

Before I start - I quit smoking in 1969. My wife smokes, but not heavily. I prefer non-smoking or well-ventilated venues for meals; if a bar is too smoky, I'll leave.

The people who want to control our lives in the name of "common good" are resuming their push to ban smoking in Warrensburg. The "health" teacher (I don't remember having a "health" teacher) at the local middle school instigated a letter-writing campaign by her students to force the City Council to move away from their willingness to let the market decide which restaurants & bars would and would not be smoke free. A free-market member who was term-limited was replaced by an academician who advocates a smoking ban.

Let's look at some issues:

1. Fairness - Depending on how an ordinance is written, some restaurants & bars could be more adversely affected than others. Bar/restaurants that have completely separate smoking sections (Player's Nathans's, Heroes'), generally with separate HVAC systems, would suffer because the extra expense they incurred to do so would be negated. Restaurants that failed to spend the capital for physical separation (Applebee's, County Kitchen) would be rewarded. If the ordinance allows smoking on outside patios, small places like the Checker Tavern or Joy's Donuts would suffer.

2. Safety & the Public Peace - Bars and restaurants outside the city's control, such as the strip bar at Skyhaven or the places in Montserrat, would draw smokers. That would increase the number of imbibing drivers on US 50 at night. Draw the conclusions yourself. If smoking at outdoor drinking venues is allowed, would that lead to noise complaints from neighboring residences & downtown apartment dwellers?

3. Money - Warrensburg appears to be doing a good job managing its finances despite the economic downturn. I wonder how much tax revenue is generated by the businesses along West Pine Street? I wonder if they've run an economic profile of the effects of various smoking ban scenarios? I suggest reading this study: Economic Effect of Smoking bans.

4. Property Rights - Is it fair for government to take someone's property without compensation? While the U.S. & Missouri Supreme Courts seem to think that government has the right to do anything it wants with your property, a smoking ban does take the property (economic potential) of the bars/restaurants/establishments targeted.

My conclusion - If you don't like smoking, don't patronize establishments that allow it. Tell the owner/management why you're not frequenting their establishment. Instead, patronize non-smoking establishments such as Mary Jane's or one of the fast food restaurants; have lunch at the Senior Center or Sheltered Workshop. Don't ask the government to suppress the rights of the business owner to accommodate your desires.

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