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Smoking Bans: Not a Liberal-Conservative Thing

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I heard it again the other day. Someone upset at smoking bans referred angrily to the “liberals” who want to impose them.

It's a common perception — or, I should say, misperception — that those who favor smoking restrictions are "liberals." Sure, some of them are. But the truth is that the issue, like most, is not so simple.

Name a group that's been officially opposed to tobacco for decades. How about the Southern Baptist Convention, which, according to its Web site, adopted a measure in 1984 that calls for, among numerous other actions, taking “leadership in encouraging our people, pastors, and SBC leaders to refrain from using tobacco in any form …”

Or look at the states with fairly extensive bans. Sure, you'll find Massachusetts and New York. But you'll also find Utah and Idaho. And Florida, where voters have chosen Republicans for nearly every statewide office for quite a while – including George W. Bush's brother as governor twice – approved an extremely restrictive smoking restriction.

Which governor said the overwhelming majority of residents in his state “don't want to have someone else impose their habit upon them, whether it's spitting or whether it's vomiting or whether it's smoking”? And also said he'd support a ban on all cigarette sales in his state? Arkansas Republican Mike Huckabee, according to news reports. He's also known for this quote: “The country was better off with Leave it to Beaver than Beavis and Butthead. We were better off when the Gideons gave Bibles to the fifth graders than when school nurses gave condoms to the sixth graders. We thought it was better for fathers to take their sons hunting than sons in urban areas hunting for their fathers.”

Even in California, often associated with liberal nanny-staters eager to take away smoking rights, it isn't as black and white as that. Among the first communities that moved to ban smoking on beaches and piers were those in Orange County, where, I believe, the last Democratic presidential candidate to win a majority was FDR — before
WWII.

Of course, political labels tend to be pretty meaningless, anyway. That's probably why politicians are so fond of tossing them around. The truth is that there are lots of people who want to stop others from smoking, for whatever reason. Some see themselves as liberals, some as conservatives, some as centrists, some who knows. Perhaps we can just call them what they are: anti-smokers.

Background: How did smoking bans fare on Election Day 2006?

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About The Stogie Guys

  • Maurice

    I am unaware of smoking bans here in Idaho. I work at Micron where we have many smoking breakrooms.

    What smoking ban are you refering to in Idaho?

  • http://www.stogieguys.com Stogie Guys

    According to the Idaho Department of Health & Welfare, a ban on smoking in restuarants went into effect in 2004, making the state, at that time, one of only 11 to “designate restaurants as smoke free.”

  • http://www.myspace.com/tequila_d_amour gette

    i always assumed, with my propensity towards conspiracy theories, that this whole vein of legislation was a way for insurance companies to control costs… as in reducing payouts for deaths due to smoke inhalation in whatever way you get it. on the other hand, i lived in texas for twenty-one years, where the insurance industry has a stranglehold on the state government, and we had smoking bans quite early, in the mid-90s. otherwise, the state is fairly populist and laissez-faire.

  • Maurice

    Stogie – I stand corrected. How many states currently have such a ban?

    gette – interesting comment. Here in Idaho we don’t allow smoking but we do allow people to ride motorcycles and not wear helmets. If the insurance companies were pushing this legislation it seems they would push for helmet laws.

  • http://w6daily.winn.com/ Phillip Winn

    Texas similarly has no helmet law, but smoking bans in restaurants in many cities. Not a state-wide ban, though. The helmet law has been pased several times, but doesn’t pass constitutional muster. Texas has an interesting Constitution.

    Back to the article: It’s worth nothing that the SBC calls for *internally* encouraging people not to smoke. That quote certainly doesn’t reveal anything related to public legislation or laws. The SBC might indeed have campaigned for something like that, but there is a big difference between stating that I’d like my family to do X and stating that there should be a law requiring X.

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