This article originally appeared on heartland.org.
In mid-January, city council members in Folsom, CA, a suburb of Sacramento, prepared to expand the city’s smoking ban to include private property, such as apartment residences and restaurant patios.
The city’s smoking ban currently prohibits cigarette use in all public areas, the interiors of businesses and restaurants, and many other areas in the city. Smoking, however, is allowed in private residences or on public sidewalks.
Infringing on Personal Choice
“I see this as a case where government is on the brink of intruding a bit too far into personal choices in areas that are otherwise legal activities,” Kerri Howell, a councilwoman and former mayor of the town, told Budget & Tax News in an interview. “There are bars and restaurants here in Folsom that have outdoor patios, where they provide ashtrays for their customers who smoke cigarettes and cigars. I must presume they have done that to accommodate what their clients have requested.”
“The bars and restaurants that allow smoking have allowed it for a reason,” she said.
According to Howell, local business owners may be hurt if the proposed amendments are approved.
“There were individuals interviewed by the local NBC affiliate, as part of the same news piece for which I was also interviewed. They were at a local pub, smoking cigars outside, on the patio,” she recalled. “They indicated that they would no longer frequent that business if smoking were banned.
“I suspect that same situation would apply for those who choose to visit bars and restaurants in Folsom, but do not live here. It is likely that those individuals would choose to patronize businesses with less stringent smoking regulations,” she said.
‘Little to Do with Public Health’
Howell said she feared the proposed ordinance is “a start down a slippery slope.”
John Nothdurft, director of government relations for the Heartland Institute, which publishes Budget & Tax News, shared Howell’s concerns.
“The amount of government overreach has reached a point of absurdity,” he said “The policies being considered by the Folsom City Council, against the legal act of smoking in outdoor areas of businesses and homes, have little to do with public health.”
“Whether you smoke or not—or don’t think others should smoke—is not the issue. The issue is whether government officials should be allowed to make private decisions for businesses and individuals inside and outside their businesses and homes,” Nothdurft said. “Not nearly enough attention is given to the fact that the right of business owners to decide how to run their establishments should be protected.”
Jesse Hathaway (firstname.lastname@example.org) is managing editor of Budget & Tax News.