HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
October 8, 2007, Herald Journal

Freedom is lost bit by bit

By ROZ KOHLS

At this time next year, we should be seeing statistics showing fewer deaths and health problems from breathing secondhand smoke for employees who have no choice but to work in a bar or restaurant.

Do you think we will?

I don’t.

There were very few people in Minnesota who became ill from breathing secondhand smoke because they had no choice but to work in a smoky bar or restaurant. Usually, those who did become ill from secondhand smoke, and not from smoking themselves, lived in a house with a smoker or had to drive or ride in a vehicle day after day with a smoker.

I also don’t believe they didn’t have a choice where they worked. If they stayed at a smoke-filled bar or restaurant, even when the smoke bothered them, there must have been another reason. Maybe they had a good-sized paycheck or big tips, they liked their employer, or maybe they enjoyed being with their friends.

We’ve been told the “Freedom to Breathe Act,” which began Oct. 1, was all about health.

It wasn’t non-smokers like I, and ordinary Minnesotans, however, that were pushing for the “Freedom to Breathe Act.” Consumers always have had the choice to patronize a different bar or restaurant if secondhand smoke annoyed them.

Most of the push came from people who worked for the government, or from lobbyists who had been paid with money from the settlement from the state versus tobacco companies lawsuit.

Few smokers will quit because of the new law, either. The government taxes tobacco so it really doesn’t want people to quit buying it, anyway. Otherwise, tobacco would be made illegal.

The new law also will hurt business in bars and restaurants for at least three to six months, the time it will take to develop new clientele.

I predict many small bars and restaurants will go out of business in the meantime.

In Vancouver, British Columbia, residents are putting up with the same nanny-state we have here in Minnesota. Smoking is banned on sidewalks in commercial districts, bus shelters, and even in taxis passing through Vancouver, as well as in restaurants and bars, according to the Vancouver Sun Sept. 27.

Vancouver violators will be fined $100 to $2,000. Health protection director Domenic Losito said the law is aimed at cigarette smokers.

However, as of Sept. 25, Muslim immigrants are exempt from the law if they smoke in Hookah lounges.

Huh? Doesn’t tobacco smoke harm Muslims’ health, too? What about the employees of the restaurants where the Hookah lounges are? Doesn’t the city council of Vancouver care about Muslim health?

No-smoking regulations are more about the power of telling people what to do and not to do, than about health.

Vancouver officials caved to the Muslims, because they knew the Muslim immigrants would protest not being able to do what they want.

As long as we don’t protest, this is what we get, a bit by bit loss of our freedom. Someday, we will wake up and ask, “What happened to America?”