As a conservative, concerned citizen and a business owner, I am wary of any initiative promoted by any official at any level of government intending to decide judicially an issue that the citizenry is fully capable of deciding for itself.
Such movements routinely result in restrained liberties, trampled civil rights and reduced decision-making power for the citizens affected.
It is no wonder then, that I approach the proposed countywide smoking ban with a great deal of suspicion and caution, for fear that this is another attempt by government to regulate without regard nor respect for the freedom of proprietors to make decisions pertaining to their own businesses.
In an article on the subject appearing in the July 28 edition of The News-Times, Commissioner Tom Mercer was quoted as stating, "We've got all the documentation to prove that smoking is hazardous in public places." No informed person would deny or dispute the downside of smoking, but the fact is, smoking has already been banned in public (government owned) places. The issue now is, should it be banned in private places.
Should business owners in Columbia County be forced, through governmental order, to prohibit smoking in their respective establishments, or is such a decision best reserved for the entrepreneur based on market conditions and consumer interests?
Should the government deny the small business owner the freedom to make such decisions affecting his own business -- in his own place of business, or is the government justified in imposing itself upon his business and making the decision for him?
The broader issue is, just how much local government intervention into our lives and businesses are we residents of the county going to enable, embrace or simply endure. If the government is successful in this effort to prohibit smoking in private businesses, it is certainly conceivable that it could then extend its legislative reach to prohibit such activity in private homes.
I don't smoke, I don't own a restaurant and I'm not defending the freedom of any smoker. I'm simply stating my preference for the power of individual choice in this issue over the power of government. Please commissioners, leave this issue where it belongs -- with the preferences and prerogatives of the patrons of the small businesses of the county.
For it is through their support (or lack thereof) that entrepreneurs will make the necessary adjustments and will ultimately decide for themselves whether or not to allow smoking in their establishments.
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