Smoking ban would trample individual rights

There aren’t many things in this world more obnoxious that the smoking habit. One thing that does come to mind, however, is the growing trend of anti-smoking zealots to trample individual rights and redefine private property in pushing their agenda.

The issue surfaced locally two years ago when officials from the Tacoma-Pierce County Health District, not content merely to point out the dangers and urge residents not to light up, took it upon themselves to issue a countywide ban on smoking in all restaurants, card rooms, bowling alleys and bars — in other words, the few establishments left that permitted smoking anyway.

Last week the Washington State Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, pointed out what should have been obvious from the start — that the Health District doesn’t have the ability to issue so sweeping a regulation, particularly since it violates the 1985 Clean Indoor Air Act, which specifically exempts those kinds of businesses from regulations that already ban smoking from other public buildings.

Undaunted, the activists have responded on two fronts. First, they’re trying to sell the idea of a statewide smoking ban to the state Legislature during the current session. More immediately, they’re also promoting a citizens’ initiative, already designated I-901, that would take what the Pierce County officials tried and apply it statewide.

Petitions to that effect were being circulated this past weekend and, assuming enough signatures are gathered, the measure would appear on the November ballot.

While smoking and smokers aren’t the most sympathetic of causes, what offends us far more is the misuse of the state Legislature and the legal system to impose the will of these do-gooders on a handful of establishments that simply desire to be left alone.

No one forces diners to patronize a restaurant that permits smoking, and in this day and age most adults have no trouble finding an establishment that doesn’t allow smoking if that’s the dining experience they choose to enjoy.

Likewise, no one forces a restaurant’s employees to work there and, assuming they knew the conditions in the building before they took the job, it seems more than a little disingenuous to go back now and try to change the rules after the fact.

Mainly what it boils down to is a handful of people getting together to run a few bars they don’t drink in anyway out of business so they can feel better about themselves.

To coin a phrase, they need to butt out.

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