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Howard Co.'s ban on smoking in parks won't end there

Laws and Legislation

The Sun's argument that an outdoor smoking ban is not the government as nanny is circular and wrong-headed ("Smoking ban: A Howard County nanny state? Hardly," July 12). On one hand The Sun allows that there is little if any possibility of secondhand smoke health problems for nonsmokers in outdoor parks. In the next breath The Sun suggests that it still is in the government's best interest to not even tacitly condone an individual's poor choice. The reasoning here is that government knows best, or what is commonly referred to as government as nanny, despite what The Sun says. The challenge is that while this time the law is "contained" to only parks, regulations rarely stop at low easy rung of the ladder. Once the government gets a foothold, it climbs.

The second argument The Sun makes also falls short. Without the ban, there is no impediment to a non-smoker's rights by those smoking in the outdoors. If it is about air quality, the list of similar infractions is exponential. For example, diesel busses should be banned for the choking fumes they emit every day. With this ban, the government is absolutely "telling people what to do or saying it knows best how they should live their lives." The government does not want to even tacitly condone the behavior that is by all accounts confined only to the individual engaged in the activity. Excepting the litter of spent cigarettes, there are few if any complaints regarding outdoor smoking. It is not too far fetched to see a future where a person enjoying (yes some people enjoy smoking) tobacco in his or her yard will be prevented from doing so because a neighbor can smell it.

This law is the type of foothold that allows future expanded laws. When smoking ceases to be the "single biggest preventable cause of disease and death," where will the government turn its attention? Certain foods? Alcohol? Medications? After all, such attention is for an individual's own good as he or she may be deemed (as smoker's are) to have no ability to decide what is good for them. Tobacco is demonized and impossible to argue for, except in the framework of individual choices one may make.

The government regulating individual choices is exactly what government as nanny is all about. No one will pay mind to impositions on "smoker's rights," but the ground work is laid for similar legislation to control other individual behavior, whatever the subject.

Bill Burnham, Baltimore

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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