Niagara Gazette

Columns

February 12, 2013

CONFER: The smoking ban — 10 years later

(Continued)

Niagara Gazette —

Likewise, let the consumers make their own decisions regarding a smoking environment. No one ever said that you had to frequent an establishment where smoke filled the air. Prior to the statewide-ban, there were thousands of restaurants where smoking was prohibited. Choose one of them. I always did. I purposely stayed away from smoky places. Some of my friends and family purposely frequented smoky places.

Choices like those are things unique to a free society. But, we aren’t so free under the Clean Indoor Air Act. So, what has the CIAA accomplished at the cost of freedom?

Economically, it hurt. Many bars, restaurants and bingo halls lost their clients because of that and, in turn, lost significant revenues (as did the cities, counties, and state) and many closed their doors for good. This is especially the case in places like Niagara Falls where the Indians allow indoor smoking and their casino complexes have became safe havens for smokers, stealing customers from neighborhood gathering places that actually paid taxes.

From a health standpoint, the CIAA hasn’t helped and it hasn’t hurt. Some will cite the drop in smokers across the Empire State as proof-positive that it worked - from 2003 to 2010 the number of adult New Yorkers who smoked went from 21.6 percent to 15.5 percent. During that same period, New York high schoolers who smoked dropped from 20.2 percent to 12.5 percent. But, it’s not the ban’s doing.

In recent years, numerous health organizations have placed the cause of the decline squarely on the state’s onerous taxes. New York’s $4.35 per pack is the highest in the nation (NYC also tacks on an extra $1.50) and the single greatest obstacle to smoking.

Ten years into it, we know the ban will never be dropped; it will only be expanded, but in more ways than one. The ban in all of its liberty-assailing glory has set a precedent for public health crises – both real and alleged. Banning and suppression of unhealthy endeavors started with cigarettes. Then it went to foods in our school lunchrooms and sodas in New York City cafes. Who knows what the next target will be.

That said, even if you hate smoking as much as I do, I hope you love liberty as much as I do and realize that after the government eliminates one person’s vice, yours is next.

 

 

 

Gasport resident Bob Confer also writes for the New American magazine at TheNewAmerican.com. Follow him on Twitter @bobconfer

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