Smoking bans stink worse than smoke

Adam Milasincic

One rainy spring weekend around 1990, my granddad took the family to a T.G.I. Friday’s in Pittsburgh’s North Hills.

The new decade had begun, but ’80s glamour was alive and well. Women in the restaurant donned military shoulder pads in their blouses and crimped, moused mounds atop their heads.

There was also a man. I don’t remember details. We’ll say he was wearing red-rimmed Rick Moranis glasses and a tweed sports jacket. I do recall that he was smoking a cigar.

Granddad turned around and told – not asked – him to extinguish it. Granddad was no Ivan Drago, but the man listened. In wars of words, Milasincics never lose.

Granddad also owned a restaurant and canned the smoking section when canning the smoking section wasn’t cool. Cigarette fiends got a gravel-topped trash can outside the front door.

He made a simple business decision without a county health board, without the interference of citizen busybodies and without a voter referendum. He owned the restaurant; he stopped the smoking. Customers would either reward the move or prove its folly.

Granddad had the right idea about public smoking. He controlled what was his to control and told people who were bothering him to stop it. Years earlier, he quit smoking himself. Amazingly, this display of personal responsibility occurred when the Marlboro Man and Joe Camel were still peddling their wares on every billboard and magazine cover.

Without necessarily recognizing the fact, Granddad guarded an American tradition that has few defenders amid today’s rants against the Tobacco Demon. It’s called the freedom of association, and it’s a two-way street.

You control who uses your property. Others control your use of theirs.

Some owners use their property to run a business. You do not, however, have a “right” to go there on your own terms. You either like what it is or you don’t.

Perhaps you detest the haze of smoke clouding your local bar or bowling alley. Perhaps it even spreads carcinogens or makes your precious child wheeze. Too bad. Don’t go. No one is barring you from the facility, and no one is forcing you to patronize it.

Open your own business, ban smoking and capitalize on the consumer demand of the healthy, wealthy and wise.

Bans mandated by government are just as wrong as forcing non-smoking homeowners to allow Sin Sticks in their living rooms. Private property is private.

Furthermore, the government bans are inconsistently applied thanks to their crafting by two-faced politicians. In Washington, D.C., for instance, a new smoking ban will stop fumes in privately owned bars and restaurants, but congressmen can smoke with glee in the Capitol Building. (In one of the few places where the government has a legitimate claim to determine smoking policies – its own property – it instead carved a glaring exception.)

I gave up cigarettes some time ago, but all this hysteria makes Marlboros look quite appealing again. If smoking becomes a crime, count me in as a criminal.

I’m willing to trade my lungs for liberty. No bureaucrat is going to tell me not to. That was Granddad’s job.

Adam Milasincic is a senior journalism major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].