Private enterprise should determine smoking rules

Published 6:00 am Monday, February 25, 2008

Given the activity and discussions during the past week, smokersmay be justified in feeling a little persecuted – both statewideand locally.

On the state level, the Mississippi House of RepresentativesThursday approved a $1 a pack increase in the cigarette tax. Themeasure would substantially raise the state’sthird-lowest-in-the-nation 18 cents a pack tax.

Locally, the Brookhaven Board of Aldermen last Tuesday revisitedthe idea of a smoking ban for restaurants. City officials arelooking into the issue and plan to discuss a potential ban furthernext month.

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While the cigarette pack tax increase may have some merit,although the proposal’s chances in the Senate are dubious at best,the idea of a local smoking ban is problematic from the standpointof government interference in private business operations andpersonal freedoms.

We have no problem with governing bodies declaring governmentbuildings, schools and similar public facilities smoke-free. Inmany cases, these are places where people have to go to participatein various government functions and therefore should not have to besubjected to harmful secondhand smoke.

When it comes to private buildings like restaurants, however,market forces should be allowed to rule the day. By that, we meanbusiness owners should be free to handle the no smoking issuehowever they wish.

If a restaurant owner chooses not to have a no smoking sectionand allow it throughout his building, then he can face theconsequences of losing customers by that action. The same holdstrue if he chooses to make his business completely smoke-free andcustomers who smoke opt to go elsewhere.

During earlier discussion on a possible smoking ban, cityofficials asked that business owners make their establishmentssmoke-free on a voluntary basis. No smoking facilities on avoluntary basis remains the best course of action when dealing withthe contentious smoking issue.

We agree there are many dangerous consequences to smoking and itshould not done. But as long as social forces are going to allowtobacco products to be sold, should it not be up to privateenterprise to where and when?