Clearing the Air on the Smoking Ban

Posted on September 09, 2005
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Lighting up on private property will become a criminal activity if a group called Smoke-Free Arizona has its way. The association is collecting signatures for an initiative that, if adopted, would make smoking illegal almost anywhere in Arizona.

Clean air is a good idea, but a statewide ban on smoking is the wrong approach. The initiative misunderstands the nature of constitutional rights. The right of private property owners to determine how to use their property is constitutionally protected. They alone enjoy the freedom to determine whether smoking, a legal activity, is permissible on their property.

However, property owners are often left out of the smoking debate. Doing so conveniently ignores the paramount constitutional issue at stake - should government dictate what legal activities a person may or may not permit on his property? 

A liberty-based approach, as enshrined in the American tradition, grants property owners the right to make these determinations. And many owners do decide to keep their property smoke-free. Smoke-Free Arizona's website links to a list of hundreds of smoke-free restaurants throughout the Valley.

Just as private property owners have the right to decide to keep their establishments smoke-free or not, customers have the right to decide which businesses to frequent. That is the solution that respects everyone's rights.

Key Links:
-Smoke-Free Arizona: Proposed Ballot Initiative
-Walter Williams: "Harm's a two-way street"
-Study: "Arizona's Anti-Tobacco Crusade: Smoke Free or Free to Smoke?

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