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Bill Britt: Freedom: Up in Smoke

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

It has been recently reported that Democratic Sen. Vivian Davis Figures of Mobile will introduce a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban smoking in places of employment, public places and private clubs. Figures has tried for a number of years to pass bills restricting smoking in public places, but she has not been successful. Her legislation passed the Senate several times but could not gain enough support to pass in the Alabama House.

I am sure Senator Figures is a well-intentioned legislator but that is the problem isn’t it?

We don’t need more lawmakers looking out for our welfare, that is a personal responsibility not a government one.

Since 2009, the Mercatus Center at George Mason University has released a yearly study called Freedom in the 50 States.

The purpose of the report is to rank the American states on their public policies that affect individual freedoms in the economic, social, and personal spheres.

The study is based on the idea that an individual is free to order their lives around the concept of individual freedom, to choose ones own destiny, to make ones own choices and to accept personal responsibility for their own lives.  A novel concept for sure in 2011.

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Each year the project develops an index of economic and personal freedom in the American states. Specifically, it examines state and local government intervention across a wide range of public policies, from income taxes to gun control, from homeschooling regulation to drug policy.

The state of New Hampshire ranks number one in the study with New York State being number 50.

Alabama is ranked number 19 in the grouping mainly due to restrictions and high taxes on beer and spirits, the states marijuana laws and the courts.

We rate in the highest categories of personal freedom when is comes such policies as smoking bans, cigarette taxes, and gun control.

Of course if liberal Democrats and some so-called Republicans had their way smoking bans and cigarette taxes would put us in alignment with New York State. (Then there is Montgomery with its bizarre tobacco laws that the republican mayor has put in place.)

No one doubts that tobacco is bad, only an idiot or a smoker would think otherwise. However, a  look at WHO and CDC studies and others betray the often anti-smoking abolitionist speechifying. Do you know the average age of a person who dies from smoke relayed illness? I do. Go look it up. I did.

Fried catfish, Little Debbie cakes are bad for you too, but no one is yelling for a ban just yet.

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For years my wife and I lived in New York City, I love that crazy place but it is a filthy city full of toxins that should kill everything other than rats, cockroaches and a few humanoid species that live in the Bronx. Yet, people adapt and even thrive in that putrid environment.

We lived in a very nice part of Manhattan on the 11th floor of an expensive apartment building, but during the summer if you opened a window in our apartment–even for an hour—the furniture would be covered in black soot. Now, that is pollution.

Soon after 9/11 the city council of that fair city wanted to ban smoking in restaurants and bars, because they want NYC to be a healthier place and European cities were banning smoking so, they didn’t want to seem less progressive. Then Mayor Rudy Gulianni said,  “No. The people of New York have had enough to deal with. Leave them alone.”

His predecessor Michael Bloomberg upon taking office made taxing and banning smoking a top priority and it passed. Bloomberg was later successful in having transfats banned in New York City as well. Do you know what transfats are? It is margarine.

Now, I don’t think the Alabama legislature is going to ban my Country Crock but someday they might.

Call me crazy—and some have—but I don’t want to government telling me what I can eat, drink or how I can be merry as long as my merriment is inflected only on me. Oh yes, but we must protect the waitress that works at The Heart of Dixie lounge, she might die of second-hand smoke.

Really? Working at a bar is hazardous duty and if Peggy Sue can’t handle a little second-hand smoke she needs to find a new line of work. No one is forcing people to work in bars or restaurants , they choose to work there.

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Working as a lineman for Alabama Power probably has some risks too but I don’t see any of my liberal friends wanting to stop folks from working at the power company.

Passing laws like smoking bans are easy legislation and they make lawmakers feel good about themselves. But it is one more piece of legislation that chips away at personal freedom.

I don’t want lawmakers to feel good about themselves I want them to do what they can to balance the budget, stop spending foolishly and stay out of people’s business.

Come to think of it I don’t like standing in line at Wal-Mart behind people who smell like last weeks dirty clothes and weigh more than my refrigerator but I am not going to ban gravy and biscuits and mandate deodorant.

Why is it that the same people who want to stop government from interfering with their sexual choices are some of the first to want to put their two cents into other choices?

Well-intentioned people make the worst legislators, we need men and women whose intentions are to give individuals, business owners and property owners more freedom.

Legislators who understand what makes this state of ours great, that being personal liberty and personal responsibility. Some of us had parents that taught us that with freedom comes responsibility.

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I remember one time this woman brought her young child over to our house, the child ran around crashing into things, picking up expensive trinkets and pulling on the dogs tail. All the while his mother kept making attempts to scolded him but he didn’t listen. Every minute or so the mom would show some effort toward correct the child to no avail. After awhile my wife looked at the mother and said, “Honey, if you’re not going to raise your child at your house don’t try to start in mine.”

So it is with some lawmakers they think they can change with laws what was never learned at home. Good luck with that idea.

The study suggest that Alabama should also move from elected to appointed judges in order to improve the quality of the state’s liability system. Eliminate mandatory minimums for marijuana offenses. Improve auto and road regulations: make the seatbelt law secondary rather than primary, repeal the motorcycle-helmet law for adults, and repeal the bicycle-helmet law.

If Alabama were to repeal the helmet laws I would suggest that those who ride without a helmet be sure to have their health insurance up to date because when they show up at the ER with their brains hanging out, “We the People” are not going to want to pay for your stupidity.

These all may have some merit, the reform of how we select judges is a very good suggestion in my opinion.

I am not against restaurant and bars or any public place banning smoking or even baggy pants in their own establishment. This is a private property issue not a government one.

What I am against is more government interference in peoples lives and in business.

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I hear legislator barking all the time about Washington getting out of the way of business and off peoples back, no place better to start than sweet home Alabama.

Likewise it is always mystifying that even those who pledge, “No new taxes,” will raise taxes on tobacco and alcohol, is that not a new tax?

Like the premise of the ‘Freedom in the 50 States’ study I believe that a U. S. citizen is a self-governing, autonomous, individual that may dispose of their lives, liberties, and properties as they see fit, as long as they do not infringe on the rights of others.

Since the study began in 2009, Alabama has slipped only a fraction of a fraction of a percent. Let us pray even that trend reverses. I hope the legislator give the people more freedom not less.

But well-intentioned people wreak havoc on personal liberty by chipping away at little freedoms in the name of the greater good.

Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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