“Are we voting to increase liberty or are we voting to destroy liberty?” asked the lone opponent of the new public smoking restrictions recently and unanimously approved by Temple City Council. Under the new restrictions, Temple, a central Texas town 65 miles north of Austin on Interstate 35, has banned smoking inside private clubs, bowling alleys, hair salons, city buildings and restaurants except for outdoor patio areas. Though not as stringent as New York City’s outdoor smoking ban, smoking is prohibited at all city parks with the city-operated Sammons Golf Links golf course the only exception.
Businesses with alcohol sales comprising 50+ percent of gross receipts are exempted from the smoking ban while bingo parlor smoking is allowed within restricted areas. Temple, with a significant number of I-35 motels and hotels catering to the roadway’s heavy truck traffic, now mandates that hotel and motels can have no more than 25 percent of their rooms designated for smoking.
The Temple Daily Telegram said this of C.J. Grisham, the only person speaking against the revisions:
C.J. Grisham said he considered smoking a “vile, disgusting, putrid habit,” but the inconvenience of navigating second-hand smoke was worth preserving a business owner’s choice to offer the option to customers.
Customers have the option of avoiding businesses that allow smoking; it shouldn’t require government intervention, he said.
“To dictate to private businesses,” Grisham said, “it just seems very contrary to the ideals of this country and the state it’s founded on, which is personal choice and free agency.”
Grisham said he understood the public’s support for greater restrictions over public smoking but that shouldn’t lead to the loss of civil liberties.
“Are we voting to increase liberty or are we voting to destroy liberty?”
It’s not about smoking – it’s about use of a legal product and government intrusion into non-illegal business activity.
Smoking bans for workplaces and public facilities are nothing new, however, the stringency and the scope aimed at regulating legal tobacco products continues on the rise. Media reports indicate New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will next target residential smoking.
Personal freedom advocates raise concerns that with smoking first, what legal product or activity will be the next front targeted by government increasingly seeking to regulate the public’s daily lives? Bloomberg provided a clue several months ago via his support and the New York City Board of Health’s approval of a first-of-its-kind measure banning the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks (more than 16 ounce quantities) at New York City restaurants, sports venues, street carts and movie theaters.
The Temple Mayor’s Fitness Council proposed its city’s new restrictions. Its next advocacy area will be of interest.
Public nuisance and eminent domain are two other legal mechanisms by which local governments are influencing the operations of American business.
In Local Government Tries to Regulate Businesses Out of Existence So They Won’t Have to Compensate the Owners, TheBlaze.com quotes the executive director of the California-based Ventura County Coalition of Labor and Business who asks of government interventions “If there isn’t someone complaining, and there isn’t really a serious public health and safety issue, why do they spend so much of their time pursuing these kinds of cases?”
A liberty-loving society should be mindful of that question and the regulations that often lead to such actions.