Starting today, one question you will no longer hear when walking into most restaurants in the Old Dominion is “smoking or non-smoking?”
A smoking ban in restaurants and bars takes effect in Virginia today and those who must puff while they smoke or drink must go outside, sit in an outside dining area and find a restaurant that’s willing to build a separate room with additional ventilation.
Quite a turnaround for Virginia, which owes a large part of its very existence to the tobacco leaf.
As expected, those who feel it is their God-given right to light up are mad as hell about the new law.
From one diner in Roanoke: “Who in the hell is the government to tell me I can’t smoke in my favorite restaurant?”
Well, it’s the same government that has the right to tell us we can’t legally drive a car without a driver’s license, state-issued tags and insurance (or payment of the “uninsured motorist” fee). The same government that says we can’t hunt on Sunday or drive while drunk.
The last time I checked, the Commonwealth isn’t telling us we can’t smoke. It’s just saying we can’t smoke in certain public places. Smoking is already banned in most public buildings, including government complexes.
Like most people my age, I smoked when I was younger but quit more than 40 years ago. Yet the craving for a cigarette never vanished and I want a smoke as badly now as I did four decades ago. When I compare that to my addiction to alcohol, I find that my urge to drink diminished over time but my desire for a cigarette ever has. Nicotine is a powerful, addictive drug.
Does the government have the right to ban smoking completely? As with all governments, its right to intrude into our lives is limited ony by its own willingness to become more onerous than it is now. Should it ban smoking period? No, I don’t think it should. Government already exercises too much control over our lives. If people want to take their chances by smoking, that’s their risk.
By banning smoking in restaurants, government is prohibiting a practice that could put other people at risk through second-hand smoke. A person’s right to smoke should be limited when that smoking endangers the health of others.