Who's Blowing Smoke in Howard County?
By John Taylor
Special to The Libertarian Enterprise
Howard County, Maryland, a paragon of correctness and planned community, finds to its collective horror that certain restaurants are less than totally submissive in their compliance with the county's new anti-smoking law. (It is worthy of note that the law truly is prohibition in the ugliest sense of the word -- an "anti-smoking" law rather than a "no-smoking" law. Basically, the law prohibits smoking in all public buildings and offices; private businesses; and restaurants, save those that install expensive, segregated, separately ventilated smoking areas.)
The Baltimore Sun editorializes that the fight is over, the law is passed, and it's time for all good subjects to knuckle under. But the Sun also notes that "anti-smoking zealots" still push to make the onerous burden even tougher by blocking efforts to retrofit existing establishments. Is it any wonder that some business owners have balked? Perhaps they see that this battle is only just joined, rather than ended.
You see, this whole thing has never really been about first-hand or second-hand smoke, or even about smoking at all. No, it's really about control -- whether we will give Prohibition another try, or whether we'll learn from the past instead of endlessly repeating it, in variation after variation.
Clyde's, in Columbia, is identified by the Sun as one of the restaurants that is resisting the authority of the state. I say, more power to them. Clyde's used to bill itself as "The American Bar", I believe. Maybe they really meant it.
What on earth gives blue-noses and do-gooders the impression that they can run roughshod over the property rights of business owners in the name of some questionable "common good"? If Clyde's chooses to allow smoking on their premises, it's their concern, not that of some group of nicotine nannies. As long as Clyde's is willing to risk losing the patronage of those who choose not to subject themselves to the unproven dangers of second-hand smoke, that would seem to be solely the prerogative of the owners.
That the law has passed and been affirmed by county council in a veto override is merely a sign that Howard County remains steadfastly out of touch with the principles of American liberty and free enterprise. It is not by any means, as the Sun would have us believe, a clear signal that those who refuse to become subjects should acquiesce meekly and wait for the next set of regulations with which they must comply.
It's high time that individuals, property owners, and other victims of oppressive government draw the line. Perhaps if the citizens of Howard County do not become the model of submissive behavior by rolling over and showing their bellies to the anti-smoking extremists, they can become a different kind of model for the nation -- one of individuals exercising their rights to property and free association.
Maybe the butt stops here.
John Taylor, is a reformed smoker living in Columbia, Maryland. He is the founder of FULLBORE, a newly-formed grassroots organization dedicated to full enforcement of the entire Bill of Rights.
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