By Aaron M. Rodriguez
On May 14th, my uncle Frank J. Tamel wrote a piece entitled Wisconsin’s Smoking Ban: Bad for nonsmokers. He made some salient points about how punitive taxation ultimately shrinks the tax base and creates a budgetary hole for future generations. Likewise, a budgetary hole will prompt legislators to find more unhealthy consumables to tax, (e.g., fast food or alcohol products) in order to satisfy their shortfall. This vicious cycle of taxation multiplies the extent of government regulation. And when we give the government more power, we get less liberty in return. Uncle Frank's article got me thinking about the driving force behind the Wisconsin smoking ban. Democrat Fred Risser, Chief author of the bill, said that the Wisconsin smoking ban will save both lives and taxpayer dollars. He further estimated that it would save Medicaid about $754,000 per year in costs. If this rationale is the underlined reason for proposing Wisconsin's Smoking ban, then we may have a few problems to contend with.
The first problem with the Wisconsin smoking ban was pointed out on Ban the Ban, a website devoted to the individual’s right to choose without oppressive government interference. The author identifies an inconsistency with Risser’s logic - if the Wisconsin smoking ban ought to be implemented because smoking is unhealthy, then why does the ban stop at the workplace? Why isn’t smoking banned everywhere, including private residences?
The second problem with Wisconsin's smoking ban is one of hypocrisy or a double-standard. There are a number of things we do daily that deliberately put both ourselves and the lives of others at risk. Driving, for example, poses a risk to the driver, the passenger, and the pedestrian. Shall we ban cars from the roads due to the risk factors? Car accidents cost taxpayers billions annually in terms of insurance premiums, medical bills, and city cleanup. If the Wisconsin smoking ban is about saving us medical costs, then perhaps we should remove cars from the equation altogether?
A part of me wants to see the Wisconsin smoking ban passed. I’m a non-smoker, so naturally I get annoyed and frustrated when people smoke around me. I think it’s disrespectful and inconsiderate. I also work in the health care profession; and on a daily basis, I see how smoking affects people in the later stages of their life. Like I’ve told my wife, I’ve never met a person with emphysema that wasn’t a smoker. It’s a disgusting and disabling habit. My heart goes out to those who are linked to their oxygen bottles and nasal cannulas because they cannot breath without a higher concentration of oxygen. Sympathy aside, however, it would appear that at each corner of the debate, the rationale for Wisconsin’s smoking ban falls flat on its face. And when it comes to state legislation, we are best served by ruling from the dictates of reason, not from the shackles of emotion.
Governor Doyle has stated that his smoking initiative is an effort to prevent Wisconisin kids from smoking to help motivate adults to quit. If this is the real rationale behind the debate, then all Wisconsinites are in trouble. The slippery slope is gigantic, and quite frankly, liberals are very creative at finding new ways to raise your taxes. Currently, Senate leaders are considering a “soda tax” in an effort to pay for a health care system overhaul. The rationale behind this tax is that sugar-sweetened drinks lead to obesity and diabetes, and therefore, companies that profit from these products and consumers that enjoy them ought to be punished for taking unnecessary health care risks. It reminds me of the film "Demolition Man" with Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes. In the movie, salt was banned as a consumable because it was deemed unhealthy by the government.
The problem is obvious. In the past few years, government has been creeping into our lives more and more with new regulations and higher taxes. And with a government entirely controlled by the left, this process has been quickened all the more. Our forefathers envisioned a government that had the ability to keep its citizens in check, not to instruct them how to diet. I’m not against the Wisconsin smoking ban because I like smoking. I’m against the smoking ban because we don’t need a government, that has a history of applying the laws inconsistently and hypocritically, telling us sanctimoniously what products we ought to buy because they don't promote healthy living.