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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

No More Nanny State

I was speaking with my father-in-law the other day about the so called "nanny state." The discussion arose from an article I had been reading in the local newspaper about the proposal to make all bars and restaurants in Wisconsin smoke-free. I recalled there had been a number of blog posts by conservatives friends in which they take Governor Doyle to task unkindly and, in general, rant about excessive government oversight. My father-in-law is fairly conservative (but a real nice guy) so I asked him what his view was.

Well, my father-in-law admitted he was no fan of cigarette smoke either, but, you know, it is their (cigarette enthusiasts) choice and besides, what about all the bars that would go out of business. I noted that he did not include restaurants as potential closings. We seemed to agree who wants to eat and inhale poison at the same time anyway?

Anyway, I came right out and said I was fully in favor of the ban for both restaurants AND bars. I explained I am the worst of the anti-smoking zealots, a former smoker and one who smoked on average one pack a day. I'm a former smoker who does not miss the telltale smell of smoke, the yellow fingertips, nor the accumulation of the following chemicals in his lungs (the list is actually longer, I just went with the popular ones):

Aluminum
Zinc
Mercury
Lead
Acetone (nail polish remover)
Ammonia (floor/toilet cleaner)
Arsenic (rat poison)
Butane
Carbon Monoxide
Formaldehyde (for preserving my youthful visage)
Methanol (rocket fuel)
Napthalene (moth balls)
Nitrous oxide phenols (disinfectants)
Toluene (paint thinner)

Back to bars ... alcohol and cigs, that's another story. Don't they go together like Sigmund and Freud, like Green Bay and Packers? We discussed the difficulty in seperating the cigarettes from the bar. Wouldn't it cause large ripples in Wisconsin's economy? I felt a moment of despair for the poor bar owners destined for bankrupcy. This was quickly extinguished by thoughts of those poor workers who must endure entire shifts filled with smoky air. Surely they can find other jobs, it was proposed, but then, I asked, why must their economic needs be held secondary to addiction?

And then my thoughts turned to reckless behavior and drunkeness. Why, one might ask? Well, you see, I reasoned, bars are major sources of drunk drivers. Tell me I'm wrong and I'll call you a liar. People go to bars, drink too much, ignore friends' requests to accept rides, try to drive home and usually make it there safe and sound. However, too many times they don't and far too often they either damage someone elses property or injure, even kill others ... all for their right to imbibe ridiculously.

We have laws against that sort of behavior. So, why not for cigarette smokers? Their behavior could be considered reckless. They continue to smoke though their smoking is dangerous to my health, similar to drinking to excess and driving drunk. Not dangerous? There are a slew of reports that say otherwise. For example, as reported by the American Heart Association (you know, I can't remember where, but a righty once dismissed anything from the AHA as having an agenda ... gee, improving health and saving lives, some agenda), a study that evaluated the smoking ban in 2003 in Pueblo, Colorado (a city with higher the average smokers than statewide) determined that the ban contributed to a reduction in heart attacks, 108 fewer in an 18-month period.

The point of this is, wasn't it not too long ago that driving drunk was considered less serious than it is now? Hands were slapped, eyes were winked and the occasional death was shrugged off as unfortunate. But no more. In a sense, society grew up and decided it no longer wanted to nanny its wayward children. Responsibililty! Charlie Sykes and his herds' favorite word.

Instead, society decided that adults would be treated from now on as adults. Don't you think it's time for smokers and conservatives to grow up, too, and leave their nannys behind?

6 Swings of the bat:

capper said...

Interesting post, given today's announcement from Scott Walker.

As a smoker, I understand what you are saying, and agree with it, to an extent. I also try to be considerate of those that don't smoke, and try to keep my smoking away from them.

Many cities in this state already ban smoking in their restaurants. My wife (also a smoker) and I are often in Oshkosh and Stevens Point which have the smoking ban, and don't miss smoking in the restaurant, nor does it seem to have hurt their businesses.

My question would be, what about certain areas, that have closed off, separated smoking areas for those that wish to smoke?

Dad29 said...

Well, if you want to regulate behavior which is dangerous, then there are a lot of sexual practices which will have to be, ah, ...prohibited.

I suspect that at our age, we won't really care...but I can tell you that certain segments of society will be in full-screech.

Billiam said...

I've always wondered, where does it stop. After you've put smokers out, where do you go next? What buisiness to you target next? I personally don't sit in smoking in a restaurant unless that's where everyone wants to sit. On the rare occasion that I venture into a bar, I'll have a smoke with a beer. I don't drink a lot and drive, though. If I want more than one or two, I have them at home. Again, though. What do you go after next? Sooner or later, they'll get to something you like.

Other Side said...

Scott Walker, my hero? Good grief.

Daddio, come on, go ahead and name these practices. Don't be shy.

Bill, we already legislate drinking too much. Would you have those laws repealed?

Just as drunk drivers do not have the right to interfere with my health and well-being, nor should smokers. This has nothing to do with other rights such as speech, etc., and I can't imagine fantasy baseball to be at risk.

tommcmahon said...

Your post inspired this 4-Block!

びっくり said...

Interesting that the term "nanny state" implied exactly the opposite to me. Nannies lay down rules to protect children, because they aren't mature and responsible enough to take care of themselves. Isn't the process of creating all these rules just saying, "We the people aren't mature and responsible, but the state will decide how you should behave."?

I am not a smoker and over the years had wished that someone would see a market for a non-smoking club; however, it never seemed to happen. In Seattle (or maybe the entire King County) they passed a law banning smoking in any business and within several meters of doorways. I am opposed to such legislation because it takes freedom away from the business owners. If someone wants to run a corner bar where folks hang out and smoke heavily, that should be their choice. As a consumer, I would probably choose not to frequent that bar. If most potential customers choose not to go, then the (perceived) problem will rectify itself.

In Montreal, all businesses must have signs in French. Other languages are OK, but only if the equivalent French sign also exists. Again, a law that takes away choice merely to protect a dieing language. If I want to open an authentic Japanese restaurant and have all signs and menus in Japanese, shouldn't that be my choice? If I can't attract customers, then I have a problem which is self-correcting. The fact is that every person I ever met in Montreal (other than the city employees) spoke English fluently and without hesitation.

All of these regulations telling us how we must take care of ourselves is really like having a nanny, but worse; a nanny tries to raise us up to a point where we make our own decisions. These regulations are moving us in the opposite direction.