New York City is about to ban smoking in public parks and beaches. Many libertarian and conservative types are up in arms over this expansion of the nanny state. However, I support this ban. But before you attack me, let me explain what I don’t support and why I support this.
As my readers know, I am no supporter of the nanny state. I oppose the government telling private businesses what they can and cannot do in this area. If a private business wants to allow smoking in their establishment, why not? It is their private property and people can choose not to frequent that establishment. For years, smart business have provided smoking and non-smoking sections. As long as the smoke does not enter the non-smoking section, this worked very well and everybody was happy.
On the other hand, public areas, such as parks, beaches, and streets, are for everybody to use. We obviously have the right to occupy space as we walk through the area or sit/stand in place. But we do not have the right to interfere with other people’s enjoyment of the area. We should not litter, we should not make too much noise that would disturb others, and we should not pollute the air others are trying to breathe. There is no reason that the smoking minority should rule over the non-smoking majority. If smoking is allowed on the public streets, this essentially forces non-smokers to breath in the deadly pollutant or stay home. In modern society, there is no way to live without going into the public thoroughfare and allowing smoking there is dangerous. Besides, what is the point of banning smoking in a bar if I have to walk through smoke-filled streets to get there. If you don’t believe me, walk through the streets of Manhattan. In front on every skyscraper is a group of workers taking a smoke break, to the detriment of the public. Those smokers should stay indoors. The building owners should provide them with a room or area to smoke in. But in NYC, that is illegal. They are forced to smoke out on the street.
The other suggestion is that New York City should have made the vast majority of the parks non-smoking and provided small areas for smokers. This is something that I would support. However, all smoke should be kept away from the public, so smoking should still be banned on sidewalks and streets. And parks too small to have both smoking and non-smoking sections should be totally non-smoking.
Just to clarify, I thinking smoking is pointless, dirty, and unhealthy. But I think people should have the freedom to do as they wish. And on another note, many would point out the costs to society of the health care costs that come with smoking. If that were the issue here, New York City would ban smoking entirely, including in individual homes. But the issue here is the rights of individuals while in a public area.