Ayn Rand Institute Press Release
Property Rights Go Up in Smoke in San Francisco
July 17, 2008
Irvine, CA--San Francisco is poised to pass one of the nation's most radical smoking bans. Mitch Katz, director of the city's Department of Public Health, endorsed the anti-smoking proposals saying, "Tobacco remains the number one cause of preventable death in the U.S.--period. It's government's responsibility to protect people from obvious risks."
But according to Don Watkins, a writer for the Ayn Rand Institute, "It's not the government's responsibility to protect us from risks, obvious or otherwise--its function is to protect our rights from being violated by physical force or fraud. The American system is not one of nanny-state paternalism, with the government controlling our lives and choices. It is a system in which the government exists solely to protect our freedom so we can direct our own lives and choices.
"That includes the choice to smoke cigarettes. The government has no more right to stop us from smoking than it has to force us to smoke. That decision is properly left to each individual. He has to judge for himself whether he thinks smoking provides genuine benefits and, if so, whether those benefits justify the risks.
"In the same way, it should be up to property owners to decide whether to allow smoking in their homes and businesses. If someone regards secondhand smoke as a nuisance or a risk, he is free to patronize non-smoking establishments--he has no right to impose his preferences on anyone else.
"I am much more concerned about the risk of big government than the risks of secondhand smoke. Once the government starts dictating our choices, then no aspect of our lives is off limits, from the food we eat to the medicines we take. The trans-fat bans now sweeping the nation are just the latest example of this fact.
"We need to put an end to these absurd bans--before all our rights go up in smoke."
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