Mason County News
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Banning Smoking - Another Prohibition
Wednesday, June 15, 2011 • Posted June 15, 2011

I don't like cigarette smoke. I don't handle it well, and tend to go out of my way to avoid being exposed to it when I can. Having grown up with parents who smoked, and one who died of lung cancer, I have seen the negatives of such a habit.Oddly enough, having seen the negative impacts of smoking, I am also a snuff dipper. I know, without reading the warning labels, that smokeless tobacco is not a safe alternative. Nor is it any more attractive than smoking!Nationwide, cities are moving to ban smoking. Many cities in Texas already have smoking bans in place. They have different restrictions; but, they all have the same goal in mind - to allow nonsmokers the ability to not be exposed to second hand smoke. Now, the City of Mason is considering its own smoking ban.Most restaurants in Mason already have smoking bans, or have smoking areas within the restaurant so that nonsmoking patrons can eat without having to deal with smoke. Many of our buildings already ban smoking - the courthouse, the civic center, the library, the museums. Currently, the business owners or building owners make that decision to not allow smoking. A smoking ban takes the burden of responsibility off that owner and allows them to blame that "damned ordinance" which ties their hands in allowing the occasional smoker.Let's be honest. Tobacco is a hazardous material. Whether chewed, dipped or smoked, it contains chemicals that are either bad for you, or that can cause serious, even fatal, harm. We as individuals, have a choice in whether we use tobacco or not. Tobacco companies are complicit in our addiction as they've added nicotine, flavorings and pushed the cachet of tobacco use through the media. But, how far can the ban on smoking go?States and the federal government make a tremendous amount of money from the sale of tobacco products. They also spend an equally tremendous amount of money to treat people who have degenerative diseases caused by tobacco, so the trade-off is almost even.Can you ban smoking? I would hope so. I want to be able to enjoy a meal without cigar or cigarette smoke ruining it. But, I worry where we're headed. If everyone is going to ban smoking, why not just ban tobacco?Probably because we've tried prohibition before and it was a disaster. Of course, that amendment to our Constitution (the only amendment ever overturned) was for alcohol. And isn't alcohol just as bad, if not worse, than tobacco. Most people who are smoking while they drive are much less of a threat to me than the ones who are drinking. We've developed a great deal of rules and laws for alcohol, and now we add tobacco to that small group of substances that we both allow, and disallow at the same time.Bans and prohibitions create their own set of problems. If something is prohibited, and someone really wants it, they will find a way to get it. Bootleggers made millions in getting alcohol to people who wanted it during Prohibition. Drinking bans already exist. Mason County is technically a dry county; but, we have "wiggle room," allowing beer and wine sales, though not liquor. Unless you count private clubs. Or if you're willing to drive a few miles to neighboring communities that don't ban liquor sales to make your purchases, which moves that revenue out of Mason County.But, we still drink. Even if we have to go somewhere else to buy it. So, if we ban tobacco, will the new contraband coming across our southern border be a menthol, filtered, or extra long? Prisons already have a booming black market in cigarette sales, almost as economically lucrative as sales of pot and methamphetamine. Should we look to the prison system to see what continuing bans will do to the general population?Rather than bans and prohibitions, we need to continue our education of potential users. We need to make tobacco and alcohol less attractive to kids, and then make our actions match our warnings. We need to allow businesses to see that not allowing smoking attracts more customers than it drives away rather than creating more legal restrictions.Even if the City of Mason doesn't pass its smoking ban, the state legislature is also considering a statewide smoking ban. At least if we work with our city government, we might get regulations that more closely match our own values and desires than if we allow the folks in Austin to craft legislation based on what they think we want or need.There has been a constant call in the last few decades for "smaller government," for "less intrusion of government into our private lives," for "more control by the people." I don't think we're headed that way any time soon.

It’s all just my opinion.

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