Editorial: Smoking is not a right

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 15, 2006

During the Albert Lea City Council&8217;s debate on Monday night over whether to adopt a city policy of tobacco-free parks, one City Council member mentioned the rights of smokers.

Smokers&8217; rights? Seriously?

When legal professionals talk about rights, they weigh one group&8217;s rights against another&8217;s. Rights bump into each other quite often.

For instance, the right to peaceably assemble at times is balanced against the interests of individual safety. The right to free speech is pitted against the right to freedom of religion, most notably in schools. The right to freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures bumps headlong into the right to bear arms.

When we talk about the rights of smokers, we must consider the rights of nonsmokers, too.

When nonsmokers exhale they do not endanger the health of smokers. When smokers exhale they endanger the health of nonsmokers and other smokers. There is no doubt that secondhand smoke is unhealthy.

The policy the City Council passed Monday is a nod to the rights of nonsmokers to breathe clean air. Breathing. That&8217;s a fairly fundamental fact of existence, let alone a right. It outweighs any rights of smokers.

Another comment was made Monday about the policy being too much government regulation.

Government presently regulates restaurant kitchens so that fans are working properly. Smoke from cooking is not allowed to billow out into customer seating.

Is that too much government?

What about people who smoked and now are too poor to pay for the care of their expensive tobacco-related illness? It is government that picks up the tab.

Is that too much government?

What about protecting the health of employees in the workplace?

What about protecting the health of children at restaurants? They have no say in where there parents take them to eat. Smoke transfers into nonsmoking sections all the time.

At some point, your conscience tells you the difference between right and wrong.

Passing the policy Monday was the right thing to do. Our children thank you.

Even better would be the city passing a ban on smoking in any establishment where children can

be present.