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Jewish World Review Dec. 1, 1999 /22 Kislev, 5760

Walter Williams

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Cigarette Nazi update --
Since Carnival Cruise Lines banned smoking on its "Paradise" ship, 14 passengers and one employee have been put off at the nearest port. One of the passengers was put off the ship after the steward simply found a pack of cigarettes. According to Carnival, she was guilty of possession.

The Guest Choice Network also reports that Arizona has a new state law that prohibits the use or possession of tobacco products by any adult on all school campuses. Parents can be arrested for lighting up outdoors and subject to a $100 fine for carrying tobacco products in their purse, pocket or even in their car.

According to an Oct. 10 Associated Press story, the Boca Raton, Fla., City Council aims to ban smoking everywhere for new employees. Smoking is already off limits in city government buildings and one city park. The City Council's planned ordinance would ban employee smoking at home or anywhere else. Employees found to have smoked at home would be fired. Roughly 700 employees already on the payroll would be grandfathered and allowed to continue smoking in their homes and cars.

The City Council claims their ordinance would mean lower health-insurance premiums for all employees. The ACLU contested the no-more-smokers employment rule in North Miami as a violation of privacy, but the Florida Supreme Court upheld the rule, saying that lower insurance costs outweighed the privacy issue.

To support these attacks on smokers, the American people have to be either stupid or short-sighted. Think about the Florida Supreme Court's decision for a moment: Health insurance costs outweigh privacy issues. Like abstention from tobacco products, daily exercise lowers health-care costs, and so does daily consumption of fruits and vegetables, six to eight hours of sleep, and moderate alcohol consumption.

If, for example, the Boca Raton City Council passed an ordinance requiring all employees to do a half-hour's worth of exercise daily, would the Florida Supreme Court uphold that, as well? Why not? It would be consistent with its opinion that lower insurance costs outweigh privacy issues.

For everybody except tyrants, private property is the answer to the smoking issue. If I own a home, office building, factory or bar, I should have the right to decide whether smoking is allowed or not. You have the right to decide whether you wish to enter the premises. By the same token, if you own a home, office building, factory or bar, you have the identical right and I have the right to decide whether I shall enter. I have no more right to use the law to force you to permit smoking on your property than you have to force me not to permit smoking on mine. Tyrants can't live with such a liberty-oriented solution; they like to forcibly impose their preferences on others.

A major problem with the smoking issue is that smokers have been cowed into believing they're doing something wrong. I say balderdash. Cigarette smoking has always been an acceptable part of American life, but not in modern America. But look at the kind of moral filth, once unacceptable, that has become part and parcel of modern America. Actors can commit any kind of indecent behavior on screen, but only if they light up will there be a protest. Our youngsters use foul language, engage in lewd conduct, have babies out of wedlock and engage in unspeakable violence, and we worry about whether they smoke.

I say America's nearly 50 million smokers should not timidly comply with one attack after another. I doubt there's jail space to house all of us.

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©1999, Creators Syndicate