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Intractable Smokescreen

Most of my Saturday and Sunday mornings begin with me smelling myself. I stink. I stink bad. And, for the most part — you know, usually — it has very little to do with my personal habits or bodily functions. It has to do with my desire to unwind from the week in a club or a bar with my friends. And where there is unwinding and alcohol, there too shall be a third thing — a most odious vice: smoking cigarettes.

Truthfully, it’s gross. I’m not sure what gentleman got the bright idea to light something on fire, stick it in his mouth and inhale — but it’s been a bad idea since. We live in a modern society where we understand the effects of cigarettes store smoke cigarettes and can point to literally tens of thousands of deaths each year from lung cancer induced by cigarette smoke.

And yet — for the want of a few more quarters in gaming machines, the tavern and bar owners in this state cajole legislators to make the smoking cigarettes laws as liberal as possible to the detriment of everyone involved except he who owns the video poker machine.

No one is asking anyone else to stop smoking cigarettes. No one is even suggesting that smokers curb how many online cigarettes they have every day. The only demand on another’s behavior is that they participate in the unhealthy and self destructive act of smoking cigarettes in such a way and in such a place as that no other person has to be a party to it, unless they so desire.

“But Ryan,” you may say, “you choose to go to bars where smoking cigarettes is permitted.” That is the great fallacy of the argument. I would elect to go to a bar where people weren’t allowed to smoke cigarettes if such a place existed. But there is a perverse incentive, particularly in Nevada. Tavern and bar owners object to a smoking cigarettes ban on the grounds that it hurts their bottom line. They can’t have folks who would otherwise be gambling at the machines getting up and taking a walk outside every time they get hit with a nicotine craving.

For all of that — five minutes of a smoker’s time added up night after night with the dollars they use for gaming — is why I stink on most Saturday and Sunday mornings. It is why I, and others like me, are exposed to damaging secondhand smoke, suffer stuffed noses and, in rare instances, have an induced asthma attack.

In my mind, that’s not a very fair bargain. I’m not asking to do anything extra — I’m not performing any actions. In other words, I’m not filling the room up with smoke. That action is the one that alters the natural state of the environment, and for that reason the people who are interested in filling the room up with smoke cigarettes should be the ones who bear the burden of their action. No one would similarly reason that folks who play music loudly and disruptively in a park — particularly to the point where long term exposure can damage the ear drum or cause a certain type of associated cancer — have some kind of special right and privilege to do so. Likewise with cheap cigarettes smoke. When a person or people’s smoking cigarettes habits start to unreasonably interfere with another person who is not doing anything to alter the natural state of a place, they should be curtailed.

Aside from having benefits for folks like me who no longer have to inhale the indoor smog and air pollution, a smoking cigarettes ban would likely discourage smokers generally from continuing the habit. It is gross, and most smokers acknowledge that much. A ban from smoking cigarettes in bars — which in effect means that they must go out into the weather, away from their friends, give up a bar stool and a good spot in a club — might be the final small push a person needs to kick their habit.

Nevada is an awesome place that tolerates many things other states simply don’t put up with — legalized prostitution and gambling are easily the most prominent. But our libertarian ideas should be consistent and straightforward — you can perform an action as long as it doesn’t hurt or interfere with someone else. Indoor smoking cigarettes clearly violates that principle. It’s time Nevada and Las Vegas joined the rest of the world in putting an end to this harmful and unseemly practice. We need an indoor smoking cigarettes ban.



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