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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Statewide smoking ban: The nanny state marches on

Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:30 AM

The Tea Party movement was largely responsible for the 2010 Republican tide, and Indiana Republicans reaped the benefits by not only capturing the Indiana House of Representatives but capturing a 60-seat supermajority in that chamber. That is why it is so disappointing that a party that gained power on the strength of a movement dedicated to limited government is advancing nanny-state legislation to protect us from ourselves.

It is bad enough when individual cities, towns and counties ban smoking on private property. At least there are places in the state where private property rights are respected. For state government to overrule the wishes of those localities where smoking is not banned is an overreach. There is no pressing need to ban smoking in "public places" and there is no need to force this on localities that do not share the nanny state sentiments of places like Bloomington.

Let me be clear: it is foolish to smoke tobacco. If you smoke, you should stop - not only for your own health but for the good of your loved ones. But this legislation is simply wrong.

Banning smoking in true public places like government buildings is the right thing to do. But while restaurants and other businesses may be seen as "public places" they are actually private property. Government has no business telling a private property owner that he may not allow consenting adults to use a legal product on his property. The property owner should be allowed to run his business as he sees fit.

No one is forced to breathe secondhand smoke. If your employer allows smoking, you can look for employment with a business that does not. No one is forced to patronize a business that allows smoking, or bring his family into that business. According to the Herald Bulletin, 26.1 percent of Hoosiers smoke cigarettes. Considering that smokers are a minority in Indiana, there is no reason the market could not work to eliminate smoking in public places as businesses cater to the wishes of the 74 percent of Hoosiers who do not smoke.

If government has the power to ban smoking in "public places" in Indiana, it has the power to force businesses to allow smoking on their property, regardless of the wishes of the property owner.

Does that sound extreme? There is a precedent for it, because this is not the first time that Hoosier Republicans have misfired on private property rights. A year ago, Republicans led the effort to pass a law restricting the private property rights of employers who did not wish to have guns on their property.

Had this been passed a decade ago, when Frank O'Bannon was governor and Democrats controlled the state house of Representatives, it would have been bad policy. When this nanny-state legislation is passed by the party that is supposed to be for limited government and individual liberty, it is especially egregious.

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