I have to admit it. I am a karaoke junkie. I literally go to karaoke every week, and I am not just talking about once a week. In a normal seven-day stretch, I go to karaoke sessions at least three of those days, and I always go to the same place. Tel-Star Karaoke, based in Newark, DE runs my favorite karaoke show, and they run Karaoke Night five out of seven nights a week at my favorite neighborhood bar, Christiana Pub. It’s a wonderful atmosphere because since most of us are regular attendees to the karaoke shows, we’ve kind of become a bit like a “family”; everyone is very supportive of one another, and you can be assured that no one will laugh at you when you get up to sing. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve noticed that many of us who regularly attend karaoke at Christiana Pub smoke cigarettes, and at any given time during a night out there, one will see anywhere from fifteen to twenty people outside smoking and socializing, whether rain, snow, or extreme cold or hot temperatures. Unfortunately, for us smokers, our governor, Ruth Ann Miller, has banned smoking in every public place in the state of Delaware, including our favorite bars. So, one night while we were all taking a “smoke break”, someone posed the question, “Should smoking really be banned in every public venue?” As you can probably guess, the resounding answer was, “absolutely not.”
It is not that those of us who smoke are unaware of the risks and health dangers of secondhand smoke to those who are non-smokers. We have all heard the horrible stories of victims who contracted or even died from cancer related to secondhand smoke inhalation. However, is it really fair to impose a smoking ban on a place where 98% of the people who frequent it do not intend or desire to quit smoking any time soon?
1964 was the year that the Surgeon General first announced the dangers of tobacco use. However, smoking was so socially popular at the time that one could find ashtrays in doctors’ waiting rooms, and there were even smoking lounges in schools for teachers and administrators, not to mention the immense amount of money the government collected in tobacco taxes that year. There were no smoking bans then, but business owners decided for themselves and their patrons whether or not their establishments would be smoke-free.
The question here is not about the impending health issues attached to the use of tobacco in public. We all are well versed in those issues, having been bombarded with facts, figures, and statistics on an almost daily basis. It is more a question of civil liberties, and the power of the government to choose how we as adults live our lives. If smoking itself is still legal, and adults are allowed to choose for themselves whether they want to participate in tobacco consumption, is it really right for the government to say when, where and how a tax-paying adult can indulge in that consumption?
When we speak about the rights granted to us by the Constitution, this, although it is not expressly stated, is a central part of that important document. Banning smoking in all public places is an infringement of those rights to pursue a comfortable and enjoyable life. We need to look more closely at what this kind of law does to the adults and businesses that it affects. It is understandable that smoking should be banned in those places where people under the legal smoking age are allowed, such as schools, doctor’s offices, and restaurants. Bars and pubs, however, do not allow those under the legal smoking age to even enter their doors, so why should they be encompassed in such a law? Instead of the government regulating where one can use tobacco products, that decision should be left to the business owner. The law should give the proprietor of a business the opportunity and the obligation to survey his or her patrons and make the decision whether or not the establishment in question should be smoke-free. If a vast majority of the patrons of the business smoke, and enjoy smoking at the establishment, the business should not be burdened with a smoking ban which inconveniences those who like and choose to smoke by making them go outside to enjoy a perfectly legal pastime.