No Slippery Slope Here
Seat Belt Law: Unnecessary Infringement on Right to Be StupidFirst, a bill has been introduced (HB06-1125) that would allow the State Patrol to pull over a driver for not wearing a seat belt and give that driver a ticket. This would also apply to front seat passengers, as well as to the use of child restraints. Currently in Colorado, you can be given a ticket for any of these violations, but you can't be pulled over for that sole reason.
This proposed law as well as the existing restriction (with the exception of the child restraint clauses) are a bad idea. We are making it a crime for someone to put their own life in danger. By not wearing a seat belt, the driver and passengers are harming nobody but themselves.
Some argue that, because the results of being in an automobile accident without wearing a seat belt are so grisly and costly, others are impacted. Well, the legislature is being very particular about what risky activities it is regulating. Just a few months ago, I fell in the bathroom and broke my back, but I don't see anybody pressing for a law requiring seat belts on toilets.
Plus, and this my favorite reason for not liking seat belt laws, people that are too stupid to buckle up are the ones that will die. Darwinism is at work here.
Anti-Smoking Law: Necessary Infringement on Right to Assault OthersThe second issue I want to discuss is a plan by a group of lawmakers (HB06-1175) to introduce a bill to ban smoking in indoor work places, and other public places such as restaurants, bars, and casinos. Currently many cities and counties in the state have such laws (although each is different). This would create a single statewide standard, while allowing individual localities to implement more restrictive rules.
This one is a great idea and its time has definitely come. As with seat belts, the lawmakers are regulating a specific activity, but in this case, those participating in the activity are harming others.
I'm sure many of you remember what it was like twenty years or so ago, before smoking bans came into vogue. Many places had nonsmoking sections, but mostly they were a joke, with no standards. You'd ask for a nonsmoking seat on the plane, and if you were lucky and seats were available in that section, you'd end up sitting a row or two away from the smokers. Same in restaurants. Your nonsmoking seat (if there were any) would be next to the smoking section, you'd have to stand in the smoking section to pay your bill, or the restrooms would be smoke filled. You couldn't taste your food, your clothes would reek when you got home, your eyes would burn, and half the time you'd end up sick or getting a cold the next day. And don't even think about going to a bar or concert -- not even a pretense of a nonsmoking section.
Compare that to today in Boulder, which several years ago outlawed smoking in enclosed public places. You no longer have to plan how to avoid the haze. I can go into any restaurant or bar and know that I won't be assaulted nasally.
Yet even today, when I'm traveling on company business and my boss says let's all meet in the hotel bar, I can't just tell him no. And now that I'm used to smoke-free living, being in a smoky area is that much worse.
Smokers' Rights Groups Don't AgreeDon't smokers have the right to freely associate with whomever they want? Of course they do. They just can't blow their carcinogens in my face.
Aren't we now infringing on the smokers' rights, and giving special preference to nonsmokers? No, smokers can do all the same things nonsmokers do.
Shouldn't this be a matter for the private business owner to decide? Well, there probably was a time several years ago when restaurant and bar owners could have taken the matter in their own hands. They could have come up with a set of rules or guidelines for themselves, and possibly avoided having it done for them. Many other industries have self-regulated rather than facing laws forcing them. This never happened. And now every town, city, and county in the state has a different set of rules, which is unfair to everybody.
Didn't I read that the studies on secondhand smoke are all bogus? Well, I've heard that too, but there are just too many studies that have found so many health issues for me to believe that rumor. Here are a few of the studies:
1992 EPA Study
2004 EPA Study on effect of environmental smoke on children
1997 California EPA
2000 NIH Report
1998 UK Scientific Committee report
1997 report from Australian National Health and Medical Research Council
Many (even most) smokers are courteous. However, as a nonsmoker, the ones I most remember are the ones who are rude, who don't care that their smoking impacts many others near them. I agree, laws should not be necessary. But, as with so many other areas of our lives, the ideal world doesn't exist.
Let's go ahead and pass this new law banning smoking in all Colorado public places. And don't worry, it will not lead to bans on smoking in your home or car, or bans on eating red meat and white sugar, or laws forcing people to wear seat belts. Oops, lost that one already.