Montana Jones

Montana n: A state of the northwest United States bordering on Canada. Admitted as the 41st state in 1889. The fourth largest state in the union, it includes vast prairies and numerous majestic mountain ranges.
Syn: Treasure State, Big Sky Country, Last Best Place.

Jones n: slang. An addiction or very deep craving.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005


Old news by now I think, but certainly the last thing I ever expected from Montana. Thanks to Craig at MTpolitics for pointing this one out.

Montana Legislature passes statewide smoking ban

For the record, I am a non smoker. I have kept smokers near me as friends and associates for most of my adult life. My association with these people as well as my affinity for seeing live music in small smoky bars plus my short stint as a barkeep plus whatever other secondhand or firsthand bad habits I may have experimented with has resulted in a mild asthma. I experience pain in the lungs and coughing fits when I spend time in smoky places.

Lawmakers said Montana's ban is intended to protect public health and welfare and to recognize the right of nonsmokers to breathe smoke-free air.

Sure, I think everyone should have the right to smoke free air, but there is still ample fresh air here in Montana and every exposure to smoke I have ever had in my life has been voluntary. No one ever forced or coerced me into a smoky tavern or restaurant. Besides, bars and restaurants are not necessarily public places. (Exact legal definition may differ from my opinion.) There is no good or compelling reason why any common citizen must enter such a place. A person could live an entire healthy, happy, well adjusted life without ever stepping into a smoky restaurant. This standard does not apply to other places like the local supermarket or laundromat as it becomes more difficult to live a life without them. There are other places that must be accessible to all citizens no matter what. The courthouse, the library, schools, government offices. Regulation of essential places is essential. Regulation of non-essential places is not. For the most part this is already being done.

I have seen a demand among the general population for smoke free bars and restaurants. Personally, I don't spend money at bars like I used to; and one of the biggest reason is that whenever I do indulge I spend the next two days with a mighty chest pain and hawking up lung cookies. If a business person offered me a comfortable smoke free social setting to enjoy I would be all over it. Especially if there were live music.

There is a growing trend for smoke free bars and restaurants. Some taverns are starting to run specials like 'smoke free Thursdays'. This trend is growing and would grow more if demand for tobacco declines. Meets my smoke free needs, business owners get my money, all are happy.

Combine the regulation of non-essential spaces with the free market already doing what needs to be done and it makes this new law an intrusion into our lives rather than a benefit.

So what about my asthma? The government has an interest in reducing health care costs. To make this happen our government must get to the heart of the matter and not regulate around the edges. I fully support initiatives that hold tobacco companies accountable for their destructive product. It is a well known and established fact that smoking is bad for you. The tobacco companies do not care to make a big issue out of this because it hurts their bottom line and they have well paid lobbyists hassling our elected officials so they can avoid their obligations. They do have a right to sell tobacco to adult consumers but they do not have the right to suppress or obfuscate the facts about their product. They do not have the right to unwittingly addict people. Children should be shielded from this product until such time as they are educated to its effects and are capable of making in intelligent decision about using it. At which time free market rules should apply.

If more were done to make tobacco growers and tobacco users pay the higher costs of health care they incur, (yes this would increase the cost of cigarettes, tough.) And more were done to educate the public as to the consequences of their actions before they become addicted. The legislation recently passed here in Montana would be unnecessary and grownups would have more freedom to choose the lifestyles we want to live.