5.05.2009

The Wisconsin State Journal, the smoking ban, and basic decency

The good ol' WSJ is grumpy about the smoking ban -- but only kind of:
The State Journal strongly supports Senate Bill 181, so long as it's not loaded with loopholes before passage.

But the Senate's fast pace accelerated to light speed Monday when Sen. Jon Erpenbach, chairman of the Senate Health Committee, posted a legal notice about a public hearing for SB 181 just 24 hours and 35 minutes in advance.

They're right to be angry over the dirty trick Senator Erpenbach is playing. The stifling of discussion -- really, the stifling of dissent against a do-good Democrat agenda -- is a real blow to democracy, a cheapening of the idea that citizens should have input in the laws created by those representing them.

But this post isn't really about the WSJ missing the broader point. It's about the fact that the entire statewide smoking ban is itself a cheapening of the ideals of local control, free markets, and personal responsibility for which our country stands, and against which Wisconsin, amidst the looming hand of Federal control, should be standing.

Events of the past few years have proved in spades that local communities, if worried about the prospect of smoky bars, are more than willing to introduce local smoking bans. This is why I can't enjoy a cigar with my absinthe at Bogart's Wine Bar in downtown Neenah -- even though they cell both products. It's the reason I can't enjoy a pipe while listening to my brother's jazz combo at Cannova's on Sunday nights. It's why Maduro very nearly went out of business.

Moreover, the monolithic nature of the proposed statewide ban leaves no room for communities to shape the rules as they see fit. The city of Madison, liberal bastion that it is, has seen fit to allow Maduro, and to provide a general exemption for cigar bars. The statewide ban would allow no such flexibility -- the completely unnecessary tyranny of those who know better.

The move reeks of condescension, and the speed at which it is moving is added scorn. I can only appeal to Senator Erpenbach's sense of basic decency -- sir, give this thing a fair hearing.

Update: this comment (made to this post of Brad's) has some relevance:
I owned the Hookah Cafe, which was located at 500 Frenchmen Street. We were licensed as a restaurant and had to close down as a result of the smoking ban passed in 2007 which made it illegal to smoke in restaurants. Many of the people we had to lay off are still unemployed. About half that found a new job call every week anyway to ask when we are reopening so they can have their old job back.

The anti-smoking lobby is using worker's health as the sticking point behind their propaganda. While their goal is ultimately a smoking prohibition through whatever modes of propaganda necessary, their point is nonetheless a valid one.