Do we live in a liberal society? Is the individual supreme? In a way, yes, but anyone’s right to act as he or she pleases ends where the well-being of another is impaired.
Canada now has some of the toughest anti-smoking laws: New laws have gone into effect in the provinces of Ontario and Québec that ban smoking from all public places, including private functions and clubs. Even ventilated smoking sections, which can cost as much as $50,000 to set up, have to be removed. Bar and pub owners are already complaining bitterly, saying that they will have to go out of business.
Other countries, for example, Ireland, are living proof that this is not necessarily going to happen. Non-smokers who used to stay away from bars, pubs and smoke-filled restaurants will see this as an opportunity to return to these places, thus taking the place of any smoker who may feel compelled to stay home as a result of the new law.
But libertarians take offense, and rightly so, because the law is excessively paternalistic. Protecting non-smokers from second-hand smoke is one thing, but going so far as to tell owners of private clubs and similar establishments how to run their places is quite another. Requiring the removal of those ventilated and sealed-off cubbyholes to which smokers have been banished for years is also an example of taking things too far. And if you thought all this was extreme, just wait until you hear about this part of the new law: Smoking on patios is prohibited if there is an awning or other roof-like cover, because smoke might get trapped and become a hazard to non-smokers. The fact that such patios are often located right next to a busy street, thus forcing patrons to inhale car exhaust fumes, which are a lot more harmful than the smoke from a cigarette, is blithely ignored.
When a government intrudes on people’s lives and usurps their right to make independent decisions for themselves, it is not only libertarians that should be concerned. We are at a point where we have to ask ourselves, “What’s next?” Will it be illegal for obese people to show themselves in public, because they are an “annoyance”?
Any government that believes in paternalism must be viewed with suspicion, because paternalism represents a most dangerous mindset. It goes hand-in-hand with a belief of infallibility on the government’s part and the conviction that it always knows best.
Non-smokers will be breathing a sigh of relief until such time as the government steps in yet again, only to take away some of their rights in another area. When you make a deal with the paternalistic devil and sell your soul, you cannot go back in time and undo the pact when time comes to hand over your soul on a silver platter.Powered by Sidelines