First they came for the menthols…

Courtesy: Chris MaddenThis Tuesday, April 5, I get to flex my democratic muscle once again. Love it! I’m pumped, even though my stance on one of the issues has drawn the ire of the other members of my household. I’ll explain.

One ballot measure, according to Springfield News-Leader reporter Amos Bridges, “would outlaw smoking indoors almost everywhere except private homes and vehicles, as well as outside in playgrounds and within 5 feet of prohibited areas.” I plan to vote “No” on this issue.

Full disclosure: I’m not a smoker. It’s been a good year since I’ve used tobacco of any kind, and there was another significant gap before that. And, contrary to the views of the News-Leader’s editorial board, I do understand that “the freedom of one person to smoke infringes on the personal liberty of others.” I also understand the health risk posed by tobacco use – even incredibly limited use like mine. I’m not denying that, like some opponents of the ban are (which I think is pretty ridiculous). To me this isn’t a public health issue. It’s a personal freedom issue.

I don’t mind outlawing smoking in bars and restaurants, hospitals and colleges, even playgrounds. That’s fine. What concerns me is the bill doesn’t allow exceptions for certain businesses, including tobacco shops. Supporters of the ban claim they are protecting workers and members of the public from the risks associated with secondhand smoke. That’s good. Most people, at some point, find it necessary to go into a restaurant or, even, take a job there. They shouldn’t have to be bombarded with secondhand smoke.

But a tobacco business, like Just for Him or The Albatross, isn’t like a restaurant. The average citizen could go their entire life and never set foot inside of those places, and the average citizen wouldn’t seek out employment in such a specialized shop unless they were interested in the product. Selling tobacco is perfectly legal, and the secondhand smoke in those businesses isn’t bothering anyone who doesn’t want to be bothered. But if the ordinance passes, both of those places will be forced to go smoke free, and The Albatross is likely out of business.

I don’t want to be responsible for that. Restrictions to protect public health are fine, but, when they force legal businesses to shut down, the civil libertarian in me gets uncomfortable, so I’m voting no. That means, according to the QCFW, I’m currently living in a house divided.

I’m also voting no on the ban on alcohol in family theaters. The News-Leader editorial board has my back on this one, calling it “unreasonable, and likely unenforceable.” This ballot measure seems aimed at Campbell 16 Cine, which has no history of troubles with alcohol. This, like the smoking ban, feels like an overreach.

But that’s just my opinion. Whatever your opinion is, make sure it’s heard Tuesday.

–QCFM

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