Missouri libertarians have opposed smoking bans in communities all across Missouri. In some cases, helping to prevent a smoking ban from being enacted.
Here is my response to a recent e-mail received by the Missouri Libertarian Party regarding our opposition to smoking bans:
Thank you for your long and heartfelt e-mail regarding rights and second hand smoke.
There is no doubt that smoking increases the risk of lung cancer and heart disease for smokers. Second hand smoke is annoying to many people and may pose a health risk.
A fundamental libertarian principle is defending individual liberties. Libertarians believe you should be free to live your life as long as you do not harm another person, their property or defraud them.
Discussion of rights can be a tricky thing. Often advocacy groups for government social redistribution programs claim there is a right to housing, a right to health care or a right to a job.
Nothing can be a natural right if it imposes an obligation on another or takes away their rights.
For example, a right to government health care would impose on others to pay for it with the fruits of their labor. To collect those taxes government uses force or the threat of force, threatening to take away your rights if you don't pay.
Libertarians are also strong defenders of property rights.
The issue of smoking bans comes down to an issue of property rights.
A smoker has no right to smoke on someone elses property unless they have the permission of the property owner.
Neither does a non smoker have a right to force a private property owner to prohibit smoking on their private property.
Another problem is the use of the term "public". Sometimes this term is used when referring to property owned by government. Other times it is used when describing a private business which is open to the public.
For true public buildings owned by government such as court houses, schools, etc. They have every right to ban smoking.
For private businesses to which the public is invited government has no business forcing the property owner to prohibit smoking. When they do so they are infringing on the rights of the property owner to set policies on how their property is used, as long as their use does not infringe on neighboring property owners. Individuals can choose based on the smoking policy of a private business owner whether they want to patronize that business. They can vote with their dollars. No one is dragging non smokers off the street and forcing them into a smoky bar.
Libertarians are also strong advocates of a truly free market. Libertarians understand that the free market generally results in the optimal mix of solutions to a problem.
Only forty years ago about half of all adults smoked. That number is now down to around 20%. As the number of smokers has dropped the demand for smoke free venues has increased. Business owners, in their own self interest have been slowly changing their smoking policies to meet that demand. For example, in Columbia Missouri 52% of restaurants were smoke free in 2003. By 2006 63% of restaurants were smoke free. The free market was adjusting to the demand for smoke free restaurants, giving you the non smoker more choices for smoke free venues.
Libertarians oppose using the heavy hand of government to infringe on the property rights of private business owners when the free market is working to provide the optimal mix of smoking/non-smoking venues.
If you want to be free to exercise the natural rights, individual liberties and freedoms you cherish; you must be willing to grant others their freedom. Even if you don't agree with the choices they might make in their life.Yours in liberty, Glenn Nielsen State Chair Missouri Libertarian Party
Here is the original e-mail with the name of the sender removed:
A few days ago I received in the mail an over sized blue post card that told me you, Glenn Nielsen, were inviting me to rediscover the Party of Principle. The first paragraph demonstrated to me that at least one of your principles does not match mine. I would have a problem supporting any organization or group that promote the trampling of the rights of individuals. And you do it in the first paragraph! You brag that Libertarians in St. Louis County helped stop a smoking ban twice. For a party that espouses the rights and freedoms of the individual, this action is unconscionable.
Smoking is the only commonly practiced habit people have that immediately affects everyone in their vicinity. If I go somewhere and others drink alcoholic beverages and I do not, I can get behind the wheel of a car and not fear having to pass a breath test. But if I go to a public place where smoking is permitted, I leave smelling like a three-pack-a-day smoker. The evidence in support of the adverse effects of second-hand smoke on the health of non-smokers continues to mount. And consider the adverse effects on the developing body of a small child if one or both parents smoke. Should be referred to as environmental child abuse! Fortunately, more and more restaurants are voluntarily going smoke-free. There is little that is more disgusting than to request non-smoking in a restaurant, be seated next to the dividing line and have their poor ventilation waft the stench from the smoking section past my nose. It is an appetite killer!
If you observe smokers in public places, many times when they are not taking a drag, they tend to hold the cigarette so its smoke does not go past their nose. Of the smoke generated by a cigarette, probably less than 20% is actually inhaled by the smoker. And a large part of that which is inhaled is exhaled. The rest is shared by the unwilling.
I contend there is no right to smoke. Any activity one person practices that infringes on the rights of another is not a right. If there is a right to smoke there is also a right not to smoke. And smokers infringe that right as soon as they light up! As the old saying goes: Your rights end where my nose begins. This is literally so in the case of smoking. The people have voted on this issue when you consider that less than 25% of adults are smokers.
I feel very strongly about this issue. My father was a smoker and his lungs were a mess when his remains were autopsied. My step-son started smoking at 14. He died at 37 of lung cancer. Smoking is like playing Russian roulette. In this case, however, it may take 20-40 years before you learn if there is a bullet in the chamber.
To misquote a French philosopher: I will agree to defend your right to smoke as soon as you agree to keep your smoke within six inches of your body. On the other hand, as a humor newspaper in South St. Louis printed some years ago: Have a cigarette after your meal and get that yucky food taste out of your mouth.
For most of the past year I have been looking at the Libertarian Party as a viable alternative to the two other parties. I supported Barry Goldwater in 1984 and have for the most part supported Republican candidates. However, I have voted for some Democrats if I thought they were the better of the two. Last year I took the Four Question test after learning about it on the Neal Boortz radio program. That is when I began looking more closely at the Libertarian Party.An almost Libertarian