Much has been reported citing a plethora of studies and research, which as of late, has been touted as evidence for the necessity of passing SB 19 — "Amendments to Indoor Clean Air Act." These studies would lead you to believe that the issue at the center of this debate is health. However, the real issue at the center of this debate is the rights of property owners.
In the Declaration of Independence, the founders enumerated several "unalienable rights." These rights include "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." One "right" not listed is "the right to health." However, the founders made it unmistakably clear that the violation of property rights were one of the main reasons they determined to separate themselves from the King of England. Indeed, they felt so strongly about these rights, that of the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, three have provisions dealing directly with the preservation and protection of personal property rights (Amendments 3, 4, 5).
The state and federal governments have already trumped many of the rights guaranteed to us in the Constitution. Our right to bear arms has been greatly limited, as has our right to hold private property, as seen in the Supreme Court’s recent decision on eminent domain (Kelo v. New London, 2005). We cannot allow the rights of private property owners to be infringed upon any more. SB 19 sets us on a slippery slope, which can only terminate in the end of all rights for property owners. The government does not, and should not, have the power to determine what legal behavior can and cannot occur on private property.
This bill would give the government power to regulate smoking in private clubs and fraternal organizations. SB 19 not only violates the rights of the establishment’s owner, but also those of the members who have paid dues to be there. Public business establishments are open to anyone who would like to enter. Establishments like these include public offices, restaurants, etc., where anyone can enter at will. Private clubs are not like this. Those who frequent private establishments have chosen to, and have even paid to do so. These venues are not open to the general public, and hence are not under the same obligation as public businesses and restaurants to provide a smoke-free environment. No party is under any obligation to attend these establishments, and in fact are prevented from doing so unless they actively sponsor and promote these establishments through the payment of dues. SB 19 violates the rights of all involved.
We are placing ourselves on dangerous ground as a society when we tell the government they can determine where and if we can or cannot participate in legal activities. In effect we are telling the government to make our decisions for us because as adults we cannot make these decisions responsibly for ourselves. Whether you are for or against smoking is not the issue. Through the passage of this bill we are not deciding on how best to protect the health of the public — for those opposed to smoking would have to not only choose to enter an establishment allowing smoking, but also are prevented from "stumbling into" these private clubs on accident due to the private nature of these establishments. What we are really doing is giving the government power to tell us what we can or cannot do on our own property. This is the real issue at hand, and what we must protect against.
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