Ban denies freedom

Posted: Friday, August 31, 2001

I will be out of town when the Assembly is taking up this issue, so I am writing. There are a few things to consider before the proposed anti-smoking ordinance affecting all offices and businesses in Juneau is passed.

First, it should be clear this is not a health matter but a matter of control. Forget the dubious statistics bandied about and think about it; a generation ago most Americans smoked, so literally millions of children grew up in households where one or both parents smoked. Therefore, since today far fewer Americans households use tobacco, young children should be much healthier. But they're not; among other things, asthma in children is becoming an epidemic. I am certainly not advocating tobacco use, but this must be brought up. A prime reason anti-smokers give for restricting smoking is not that many people don't like the smell, which would be honest on their part, but as a health measure. No matter how passionate the belief, bad science is still bad science.

This is an invasion of private businesses. As has been stated before, people vote with their feet. If they don't like the smell of cigarettes or cigars or pipes, they can turn around and walk back out. If a business doesn't like to lose customers they can provide a non-smoking area or ban tobacco use entirely. It's called free enterprise.

This ordinance is not letting the marketplace work. It is dictating how merchants or business people in general conduct their commerce. A major charm of Alaska has always been its willingness to leave people alone to lead lives as eccentric as they like as long as it's not harming others. Are we now to become a Nanny State?

Then there's the problem of enforcement. Are there going to be tobacco police hired to ferret out evildoers? Or is the police force in general going to be on the alert, since they obviously have nothing else to do. Or is the ordinance to be enforced by people ratting on each other: "I was in Joe's office the other day and smelled smoke and saw him push an ashtray under some papers." Book him, Dan'l, Tobacco One!

It is stated this proposed ordinance is modeled on one in effect in Anchorage. Since when does Juneau have to follow Anchorage?

Dee Longenbaugh


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