> SOUTHERN INDIANA — Up until last week when I learned that Indiana is one of several states that passed what’s known as “smoker’s bill of rights” legislation, I thought it was only the nonsmokers who were willing to use government force to get what they want. I had no idea that 20 years ago smokers did the same thing.
In 1991, Indiana politicians passed legislation that prohibits employers from making hiring decisions based on whether or not the prospective employee smokes and also prohibits employers from making smokers pay for the higher costs it takes to provide health insurance benefits.
That law, as well as the statewide smoking ban that comes into play next week, should have never been passed. Neither law would have either, if everyone respected two very basic concepts: property ownership and accepting responsibility for the consequences of one’s choices.
I’ve always maintained that government-mandated smoking bans ignore the concept of property ownership and the decision on whether or not to allow smoking in a given business belongs to each individual business owner. Patrons and other interested parties can certainly work to persuade a business owner to take a specific action, but the ultimate decision belongs to the owner.
Like the smoking ban, the “smoker’s bill of rights” legislation also ignores the concept of property ownership. The jobs that an individual business owner has available are his property and he should be free to make decisions about the requirements of a given job however he sees fit, which would include requirements regarding smoking.
The owner needs the ability to set whatever parameters he chooses for a given job and it doesn’t matter if you, I, or politicians disagree with his choices. None of us are the owners of the business; we are not taking the risks involved when creating a job and hiring an individual to perform the job.
There are many factors to consider when making any business decision and those factors can be quite different for each individual business. This is why the decision needs to be left to each individual owner. It may be a good choice or it may be a mistake but it’s the owner’s decision to make, not anyone else’s. Prospective employees can either agree to the job requirements or they can move on.
Government need not be involved.
It goes both ways though. The business owner should not get special government favors or protection from any consequences or costs of implementing their policies. The freedom to control the business and make decisions in how to run the business includes accepting all the risks, costs and consequences associated with those choices.
Much of the problem in regards to smoking, and most other issues where government gets involved I suppose, is a result of everyone trying to avoid the consequences of their choices by creating laws that force others to take on the responsibility they are unwilling to accept.
The smokers who supported the “smoker’s bill of rights” wanted to avoid any negative consequences resulting from their choice to smoke. They wanted other people to hire them even if those business owners did not want to hire smokers, and the smokers also wanted other people to bear the extra costs of insuring their health.
The nonsmokers who support government bans are no different in this regard though. They also wanted to push the consequences of their choices on to others. Instead of accepting that it was their responsibility to stay away from establishments that allowed smoking if they did not want to be near smoke, and/or actively working to persuade business owners to change their policies voluntarily, they were willing to use government to force business owners to comply with their wishes.
Using government to avoid consequences does not lead to a better society. The consequences do not disappear when politicians interfere — all that happens is that the responsibility for the consequences is transferred to others.
So, as special interest groups battle to transfer consequences back and forth, piling law upon law over decades, the consequence we now all must bear is a bigger, more intrusive government — one that is not going to suddenly stop with smoking.
— Clark County resident Debbie Harbeson wishes she could transfer the consequences of standing underneath that bird the other day.