Should Smoking Be a Civil Right?

After several months of rancourous and rigorous debate, Boise’s city council approved two smoke-free ordinances last night, the Idaho Press Tribune reports.

The first, which passed unanimously, will ban smoking in bars, private clubs, near transit areas, on commercial outdoor patios accessible to children or on public property, at the Grove Plaza, on 8th Street from Bannock to Main Street, within 20 feet of any city-owned building, in outdoor ticket and service lines, and other public locations.

Echoing the sentiment of many conservatives, among others: “Yay for people losing freedoms!” wrote Omar Banat on Facebook. “Or gaining the freedom from breathing others smoke,” responded Deb Spindler.

Can the government tell someone not to smoke in a private business? How about in a public park. Since ordinances such of this have passed and are enforced in other places, such as Oregon, the simple answer is yes. Critics of the ordinance include Tim Krahmer, who wrote:

Anyone that cares for individual rights should disagree with this. Our City decided for us what’s best. No vote of the people. Just a unilateral decision on how businesses can operate. This is no victory for the people.

on the facebook page of Boise Councilman TJ Thomson. And Tim Cerami wrote:

As a nonsmoker, I think this is lame! If cigarettes are still legal to smoke, there need to be legal places to smoke them.

But aren’t there still lots of legal places to smoke, such as private homes, designated “smoking huts” as well as Idaho’s vast wilderness? On Thomson’s page, the discussion is raging. Material reposted by permission of TJ Thomson: “Tyranny comes to Boise…” – Parrish Miller, leader of the Boise Tea Party organization.

TJ, although not everyone may agree with your decision to vote in favor of the ban on smoking in bars and private clubs, a statesman with the integrity and courage to investigate all sides of such a politically charged issue and vote their conscience is all too rare. As a former Idahoan, my friends and the other citizens of Boise are blessed to have you represent them with thoughtfulness and compassion for smokers and non-smokers alike. Thank you, again, for your help in re-introducing the exception for smoke-free alternatives like “electronic cigarettes” in this ban. Hopefully, the smokers in Boise who have been unable or unwilling to completely stop smoking will take this opportunity to find a satisfying alternative to combustible cigarettes they will be able to use in bars, private clubs, parks, and near bus stops in Boise and perhaps join the thousands of e-cigarette users (like myself) who have already stopped smoking altogether. – Thad Marney

“That’s OK – Can’t smoke pot in public any way.” – Larry Polsky “I don’t agree with this move. Sorry. But this is the nanny-state telling us what is good and what is bad for us,” – Gabe Iacoboni “But is is a victory for people who don’t want to breath smoke in outdoor venues like the Grove packed with 3000 people!” – Richard Anderson “I already have trouble looking cool inside the clubs.” – Eric Leins Bummer

I’m very grateful it passed. Not only am I tired of not being able to patronize certain businesses because others want to poison the air, I’m tired of not being able to work in establishments where either smoking is allowed by patrons, or fellow employees smoke in their offices thinking they don’t affect anyone else. Being allergic to cigarette smoke, I feel limited on where I can go or work. – Lisa Semmler

Shannon McCall “I wonder if this puts privately held businesses out of business could they sue? TJ do they have the right to a rehearing or can they take this to a court?” – Shannon McCall @”Shannon McCall, court challenges to smoking bans almost universally fail.” – Gregory Conley “… what gives them the right to pollute shared air?” – Chryssa Rich

I’m very disappointed in their decision to do this…I feel like my rights and the rights of others has been stepped on, abused and taken away. This ban goes too far..there are lots of bars that I know of that most of the customers smoke and there are the clubs that most don’’s up to the individual to decide if they want to go to those establishments. You know, there are so many people that have moved to Idaho for many reasons, but alot of those foks that have moved here have been trying to change it…we now have to have guard-rails on some of the roads in the mountains, so people that don’t know how to drive them won’t run off the road… now you can’t see alot of the scenery we once did because of them…hmm, seems to me that we did just fine before without them. (Learn to drive for petes sake!) Lots of changes, some for the good and some for the bad. I mean, you moved up here because it is beautiful, has any recreation you might want and it’s a great place to raise your children! You obviously left your state for a reason, why are you trying to change and influence the state you chose to live in, to make it into a place you just came from? I just have a feeling that there was alot of pull from the outside to make this change, this ban. What other rights are we going to have taken away…Did the People vote this in? How much power do you think you people have or should have? You sit around making decisions for the rest of us…where’s our say, our vote? You actually had better things to be thinking about than this. – Teresa McDonough

“BAN Alcohol too! Ban LIFE IT is deadly!” – Dave Seamons “Pretty soon your local or federal gov. will be telling you what color drawers to wear.” -Frank Lango. Responding to the idea that rights have been taken away, as well as other concerns, Thomson wrote (extended quotes used with permission):

Hello my friends. I respect and appreciate all your comments. We took an enormous amount of public testimony to date and researched the issue from all angles. All of which, greatly weighed in my decision tonight. As you know, I did not support the ban in parks. However, I did support the ban in bars. I did not support this ban in bars because of any poll surrounding the issue. My sole reason for moving forward with this ordinance was to protect the health of the employees at these establishments. Patrons have an option as to which businesses they choose to visit, but the employees do not. To put it simply – while smoking is an option, breathing is not and workers will select their livelihood over their own health, especially so in a down economy. Imagine a worker with children – they will continue to work in a smoking establishment to receive their paycheck, and will place their own health at risk, so as to feed their children, meet the mortgage payment, and make ends meet. That is neither a choice, nor an option for the employee. My vote was to protect the health of these workers. I am proud that we took this step forward by providing employees with a healthy, smoke-free environment. However, regarding my vote against the smoking ban in Parks… There is a lot to like about this ordinance, and I greatly appreciate all the hard work that went in to crafting it – especially by our Parks Commissioners, but in the end I could not support it, because I believe it went to far in our larger parks. I am not convinced that the impacts of second hand smoke in large, wide-open environments, such as Veterans Memorial Park and Marianne Williams Park, should be prohibited. The Stanford Outdoor Tobacco Smoke Study is conclusive regarding the negative impacts of second-hand smoke at 2-4 feet from the smoker, but that you have little problem at just six feet away. At the very least, I believe there should have been smoking areas designated in all of our larger parks. In close proximity to a smoker outdoors, where second-hand smoke has a documented negative impact on a bystander’s health, such as the greenbelt and smaller parks (and of course ALL children’s areas – such as swimming pools & skate parks) I support the ban, but I could not support this ordinance, as I believed it went too far to limit smoking in our larger public outdoor environments, where little to no conclusive evidence shows second-hand smoke negatively impacts visitors to our parks. Thank you.

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