People Ban: TN State Update Page 4

Tennessee

State Update

This Labor Day weekend, Tennessee motorists will be subjected to “no refusal” DUI checkpoints at which suspected drunk drivers could be forced to submit to an involuntary blood test.
August 28, 2014
By Barry Donegan
Tennessee has a new Labor Day tradition. According to WKRN-TV, the Tennessee Highway Patrol will continue its “no refusal” blood-extraction DUI checkpoints this Labor Day weekend, starting on midnight on August 29 and continuing until midnight on September 1. Under “no refusal” enforcement, suspected drunk drivers will be forced to submit to a breathalyzer or blood test, even if they refuse.
The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security issued a press release on this weekend’s crackdown, saying, “State troopers will conduct ‘No Refusal’ enforcement in the following counties: U nion (Knoxville District); Hamilton and Marion (Chattanooga District); Montgomery (Nashville District); Shelby (Memphis District); Hawkins (Fall Branch District); Smith (Cookeville); Maury (Lawrenceburg); and Hardin County (Jackson District).” The press release also describes how police coverage will work over the weekend, “In addition to ‘No Refusal’ enforcement, highway patrol personnel will also conduct driver’s license, sobriety and seat belt checkpoints, as well as saturation patrols and bar and tavern checks.”
Due to the disputed constitutionality of police checkpoints, Tennessee state law requires that their locations be publicly announced in advance so that Tennesseans who don’t want to be inconvenienced can adjust their routes. The locations of this weekend’s checkpoints can be found at this link.
Civil liberties advocates often question whether police checkpoints, which force motorists to submit to a criminal investigation on the basis of their geographic location rather than probable cause, violate the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution. Also, police positioned at checkpoints do not have an opportunity to see how a suspect has been driving and instead must rely on less-precise indicators like red eyes or fatigued behavior, which might also suggest that the suspect is coming home from a long work shift and not intoxicated at all. As more officers are placed at checkpoints, fewer can subsequently be assigned to patrols upon which they could watch for impaired motorists in the act of driving dangerously.
Forced blood extractions take place off-site at a police precinct, making the process time consuming for individuals who might be innocent. Additionally, for those who refuse to comply, extraction locations are equipped with tools to strap down suspects and masks to cover their faces.
Approval for involuntary blood draws is typically attained via telephone as judge magistrates will remain on standby throughout the weekend to handle officers’ requests.


A smoking ban will hurt the campus community
Jul. 28, 2010
By Theodore Samets
The new smoking ban will create eyesores and limit students’ rights
Before someone had the bright idea to hire me as Opinion Editor of the Hustler, I served in Vanderbilt Student Government. I spent much of last year fighting what was at the time a “proposed” smoking ban. Along with Andrew Morse and John Gaffney, I authored a resolution opposing the ban that passed the House and Senate by wide margins, and the Torch wrote an editorial praising our work. I met with the Dean of Students to discuss this, and I thought we had made clear that opposition to the ban was widespread and that we had killed the ban.
Well, it looks like that did a lot of good.
In an email to students on Monday morning, Dean of Students Mark Bandas announced our “New Campus Smoking Policy.” Vanderbilt will now be “smoke free,” except for a few “designated smoking areas” in different parts of campus. Think of the big pack of smokers huddled outside of the Medical Center on 21st Avenue, except they’ll all be behind Furman instead.
And to me, that’s the crux of the problem. Whether or not we want to eliminate smoking on campus is one question. But the bigger question for me – if we accept that attempts will be made to discourage smoking – is how does this new policy help?
Now, instead of having to avoid one person smoking a cigarette on a pathway, someone who is averse to cigarette smoke will have to figure out how to get around twenty folks all together smoking at the same time.
As a non-smoker, I’m not particularly bothered by one person smoking in front of Branscomb. But I don’t want to walk anywhere near a whole group of smokers.
I’m not proposing a complete ban on smoking on campus. I think that such a ban would be reckless and deprive students of their rights. What we should do is simply prohibit smoking within a certain perimeter of any doorway so that those who don’t want to be around cigarette smoke can avoid anyone smoking. This solution doesn’t group smokers together, an ugly sight and not a good way to promote community.
The administration’s solution of designated smoking areas will be eyesores and ostracize students who would otherwise walk to class along with their friends while smoking a cigarette.
I also wonder what thought went into where the designated areas are. If you’ve got a pack a day habit, good luck figuring out how you’re going to smoke a cigarette during your ten minute break between classes in Buttrick and Calhoun.
This smoking ban has been forced on students by the Faculty Senate. That’s fine that they don’t like smoking on campus – but they don’t have to live here. Vanderbilt forces students to live in dorms, then at the same time says that if you’re Sutherland and want to smoke a cigarette at 3AM, you’ve got to walk to the staff parking lot behind the Commons Center. Not only is that annoying, it’s unsafe.
Vanderbilt calls itself a residential campus. Now they’re imposing unfair restrictions on students while still mandating that we call the campus “home.” Whether it’s out of an effort to keep our campus looking nice, keeping our air clean and healthy, or because you think it’s just not right to restrict smoking so severely, it’s time to stand up and be counted. Write Dean of Students Mark Bandas (mark.bandas@vanderbilt.edu) and make your voice heard.


Busted by cigarette butts
New litter laws target offenders to create a cleaner Tennessee
By Lance Coleman
March 8, 2010
Flicking a cigarette out a car window can lead to serious jail time.
That’s one of the messages heard during a litter law forum organized by Keep Blount Beautiful and held at Ruby Tuesday Lodge Thursday, March 4. Judge Larry Potter of Shelby County, the father of environmental courts in Tennessee, and Campbell County Sheriff’s Office litter officer Glennis Monday were featured speakers.
The topic of the day was litter and how new incremental state litter laws are not only cleaning up trash off roadsides, but they are also helping to clear up crime in communities. “We need to think of litter in a new way,” Potter said. “We need to think of litter as probable cause.”
Campbell County litter officer Glennis Monday said that’s a message he preaches to his fellow officers. “I tell patrol officers if someone throws a cigarette butt out, it’s probable cause to pull them over and check them for DUI and other violations,” he said.
Potter said while officers realized they could use litter and blight as probable cause to search a property they suspected of being a methamphetamine lab, the $500 fine for anything from a cigarette butt to a dumped vehicle didn’t seem equitable, and often they were hesitant to charge the offender.
“Officers didn’t want to give a $500 ticket for someone throwing a McDonald’s bag out of a car window unless the motorist violated the ‘yap’ law by running their mouth,” he said as the audience laughed. “Consequently, litter laws were not being utilized. It was a $500 fine whether you threw out a bag or 1,000 pounds of stuff. We felt there was an inequity.”
Potter explained the new laws as follows:
Section 39-14-503: Mitigated Criminal Littering is less than 5 pounds of trash. The punishment is a $50 mail-in ticket, and it is a Class C misdemeanor.
“It’s not as big as it could be, but it is a violation,” Potter said.
Potter said it is this violation – flicking a cigarette butt out a car window, which can lead to a traffic stop in which a driver is sometimes found to be under the influence or possibly has a warrant for his or her arrest. “It’s probably the cigarette butt that opens up the door to so many other violations of the law,” he said. “Officers are beginning to see many (littering) citations lead to drug arrests.”
Section 39-14-504: Criminal Littering is 5 to 10 pounds of litter, and this is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by a $500 fine and six month jail sentence and 80 hours of community service.
“The price to dance goes up here,” he said. “Often times the people I see in court are littering much more than 5 to 10 pounds.”
Section 39-14-505/6: Aggravated Criminal Littering is 10 pounds or more of litter, and this is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by 100 hours of community service, a $2,500 fine and 11 months, 29 days in jail.
The judge said litter can also have an impact on quality of life and even on industrial and commercial development. He shared a story of a county in the Memphis area that recruited a company to build a site in their county. As the recruiters drove the company officials past the county line, they started seeing large amounts of litter en route to the proposed plant site.
“Five miles in, the company officials said, ‘You can turn around. If you don’t care more about your county than this, we’re not putting our plant here,’” Potter said. “There is a correlation between economic development and litter. There is a correlation between crime and litter.”
Potter showed a picture of himself holding his grandson. “This is why I am doing what I am doing and why I’ve done it for 28 years. I believe we have a duty to our children and those who come after us to hand them something better than what we received from our parents,” he said. “I know how hard we all work, but there is a great deal of apathy about littering, and we have to make them care.”
The judge said people also have a responsibility to be good stewards of the Earth. “From a theological standpoint, taking care of the Earth is Biblical and mandated. I believe we all have an obligation,” he said.
Blount County General Sessions Judge Bill Brewer said there has been a change in perception about litter laws in the past few years. “Obviously you can drive up and down the roads and see there is obviously a problem to address. When cases are brought to us, we’ll address them.
The judge related an incident where a cigarette thrown out led to a more substantial charge.
“We had a person who flicked a cigarette out, and officers ended up charging him with resisting arrest. That led to them finding marijuana in the vehicle,” Brewer said. “They didn’t have an opportunity to stop him except he did litter.”
Monday said he has been on the job since 1998 and his main focus is enforcing litter laws. Monday said shortly after he started making arrests for littering, one of the judges whose court he was often in rode with him to see how bad the litter problem was. After that ride-along, Monday said the judge raised the fine for littering from $25 to $250.
Progress has been made as volunteers and other organizations have helped to clean up roads and make the area prettier, the officer said.
“In 1998 we had 733 dump sites,” Monday said. “I have seven left now, and I’m very proud of that.” Monday said the General Sessions judge in his county also made a statement regarding punishment. “If a person threw a beer bottle into someone’s front yard and got caught, they had to spend 14 hours picking up trash on that person’s road,” he said.
Monday said it is important to get into schools and educate youngsters on the importance of not littering. “The way to stop littering in Tennessee is to get them young and get into their mindset,” he said. “Then the kids will have the mindset that they want to see the county clean.”

New restaurant markets itself as “smoker-friendly”
From its decorations to its logo and even its name, a new Johnson City restaurant is catering specifically to smokers.
February 12, 2010
From its decorations to its logo and even its name a new Johnson City restaurant is catering specifically to smokers. Smokies on East Oakland Avenue recently opened its doors to customers 21 and up. By only catering to adults, Tennessee law permits the restaurant to allow smoking. It’s one of the few exceptions granted by lawmakers when they passed the statewide Tennessee smoking ban more than two years ago.
Smokies’ owners created the restaurant with smokers’ needs in mind.
“I have a lot of friends who smoke and they don’t have no place to drink coffee and eat and smoke,” co-owner Rene Rosales said. “That’s why we decided to do it. There aren’t many places around and there’s a lot of smokers, so I think we’re going to do good here.”
So far, several smokers have become regulars at the eatery. Bill West eats there weekly.
“A lot of our rights have been taken away from us and I think we have a right as smokers to smoke and I’m glad we’re in a place where can smoke,” West said. “It’s good to have a warm place where you can sit down and enjoy a hot cup of coffee and a cigarette and relax and not have to freeze to death.”
Although a good chunk of Smokies customers are smokers, non-smokers are also welcome at the restaurant.

Tennessee smokers could face more restrictions
12/5/2009
By Nate Rau, THE TENNESSEAN
Two years after the General Assembly passed a bill to ban smoking from most workplaces, including restaurants, supporters say the law is working and should be extended to include places such as over-21 venues that are now exempt.
“There literally are hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans who are healthier, and tens of thousands who do not have lung cancer or heart disease because they now get to breathe clean air,” said state Sen. Roy Herron, who dropped his Democratic bid for governor this week to run for John Tanner’s 8th District congressional seat. “Yet other Tennesseans are still at great risk and that’s simply not right.”
The advocacy group Campaign for a Healthy and Responsible Tennessee, or CHART, wants to eliminate exemptions in the law that include allowing smoking at places like 21-and-up establishments, hotel and motel rooms, workplaces with “garage-door” access, and sites with three or fewer workers.
In addition, said CHART Executive Director Shelley Courington, there is no requirement about how far from a door people must be to smoke. The group is working with lawmakers to file a bill in January to extend the ban.
State Rep. Eric Swafford, a Pikeville Republican, said he would support an extension of the workplace smoking ban.
“I’ll be honest – I was not in favor of that compromise when it was reached a couple years ago,” Swafford said of the exemptions contained in the 2007 bill. “I was for the bill as it was originally written. I don’t think it’s fair that we’re taking care of workers in almost every situation. We need to take care of everybody. Just because someone works at a venue that is age-restrictive, that doesn’t make their health any less important.”
According to the American Nonsmokers Rights Foundation, 19 states and Puerto Rico have 100 percent smoking bans for workplaces, restaurants and bars.
The movement to protect nonsmokers benefited from a 2006 U.S. Surgeon General opinion that said secondhand smoke can cause lung cancer and heart disease. Then-Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona said his findings were derived from “overwhelming scientific evidence.”
“The debate is over. The science is clear: Secondhand smoke is not a mere annoyance, but a serious health hazard that causes premature death and disease in children and nonsmoking adults,” Carmona said at the time.
Tennessee has the fourth-highest rate of lung cancer in the nation, with 112.4 incidents for every 100,000 people, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Cancer Institute.
Restaurants back law
Randy Rayburn, who owns three Nashville restaurants and supported the ban two years ago, said the exemptions created an unlevel playing field between establishments with smoking bans and those without.
It’s a sentiment echoed by Jackie Daniel, who owns the Greenhouse Bar in Green Hills. Daniel claimed she allowed smoking in her bar so she wouldn’t lose business to nearby competitors.
“A lot of people love to come so they can smoke at the bar and you can’t do that a lot of places,” Daniel said. “It wouldn’t matter if they banned it everywhere though.”
Not everyone believes a full-scale ban is necessary to protect nonsmokers. Angie Hall, a 22-year-old South Nashville resident and smoker, said those who go to nightclubs and bars know whether they permit smoking or not.
“If people don’t want to be around secondhand smoke, then don’t go to a bar that allows smoking,” Hall said.
In addition to closing exemptions in the smoking ban, CHART would also like to eliminate pre-emption laws that prevent local governments from introducing their own smoking bans. CHART would also like to see funds restored to smoking cessation and prevention programs.
She said the state has cut spending from $10 million on cessation and prevention programs down to zero this year.
Additionally, the organization is seeking to ban smoking in places where children commonly congregate.


It’ll cost state employees to smoke
April 28, 2009
By Jennifer Brooks • THE TENNESSEAN
Current and former state employees have until the end of this year to quit smoking, or pay the consequences.
The consequences, in this case, will be a $600 smoking surcharge that goes into effect on New Year’s Day 2010 for everyone in the state employee health system who smokes, or has a smoker for a spouse.
The hope is that the extra $50-a- month surcharge will provide the extra push smokers need to quit — and save Tennessee an estimated $3,400 a year in lost productivity and smoking-related health claims per worker.
“We’re trying to create incentives for healthy living,” said Brian Haile, deputy director for the state’s Division of Benefits Administration, which oversees coverage for some 270,000 adults and children covered by state employee health insurance.
“Fifty dollars doesn’t begin to cover the costs (of smoking-related illnesses). It will never cover the costs,” he said. But having money on the line can give smokers the push they need to quit.
“It’s been known to triple the effective quit rate if there’s an economic incentive for doing so,” Haile said.
To help smokers quit before the deadline, the state will offer sharp discounts on prescriptions and over-the-counter products like nicotine gum and patches starting May 1.
Employees will be allowed to take part in six-week smoking cessation seminars on state time. The state held its first stop-smoking seminar Monday — a 6:30 a.m. gathering at one of Nashville’s correctional facilities. Similar seminars will be held in every county and at every agency, with online stop-smoking “webinars”
It’s not yet known how much it will cost the state to help its workers and retirees kick the habit, but Haile estimated it could cost several hundred thousand dollars. The costs will be offset by the smoking surcharge, once the insurance change goes into effect.
With cigarettes selling for $5.50 a pack in Tennessee these days, the prospect of paying an extra $50 a month for health coverage was enough to get state employee Eric Sjodin ready to kick the habit.
“I’ve been thinking about quitting for a while,” said Sjodin, an employee of the state Department of Finance and administration and a smoker for the past seven years. Some of his colleagues who smoke are outraged by the policy change, but Sjodin said, “I’m not angry about it. It’s definitely time” to quit.
When the stop-smoking incentives kick in, Sjodin plans to visit his doctor and get a prescription. He’d tried quitting before, but found it hard when so many people around him were still smoking.
This time, the peer pressure may work the other way.
Surcharge controversial
Jim Tucker, executive director of the Tennessee State Employees Association, said the smoking surcharge has been controversial among the workers his group represents.
Starting in the fall, everyone on the health-care plan — including state workers, teachers and some municipal employees — will be asked to fill out a form, identifying themselves as a smoker or a nonsmoker. Anyone caught lying on their form would face civil and legal penalties for perjury and would have to pay up to $300 in damages to the state.
Some states, like Indiana, back up their smoking programs with random cheek swab testing of state workers to check for nicotine. But for the moment, Haile said, Tennessee will rely on the honor system.
Employees who stop smoking, and stay smoke-free for six months, will be refunded the money they paid in smoking surcharges.
Despite the controversy, most workers agree something has to be done to reduce health-care costs, before the state has to impose another double-digit insurance premium hike, as it did a decade ago.
“The health plan (cost) has almost doubled in the last five years,” said Tucker, noting that some employees think the state shouldn’t stop with a smoker’s surcharge. “It’s been very controversial, just targeting the smokers, when obesity is a much larger health problem for so many people.”
A growing number of states are imposing smoker surcharges on their employees, including neighboring states like Georgia, North Carolina, Kentucky and Alabama. Haile balked at the idea of an obesity surcharge, although he pointed out that the state does offer discounts for employees to join local health clubs and weight loss groups like Weight Watchers.
For more information about the state’s stop- smoking incentives, visit the state employees Quitters’ Corner: http://www.state.tn.us/finance/ins/tobacco.html.
The state also offers stop-smoking help for anyone looking to quit, through the Tennessee Tobacco Quitline: http://health.state.tn.us/tobaccoquitline.htm.


Parks board complicates smoking ban
The Tennessean – Nashville,TN,USA
Tennessee was able to implement a smoking ban with nary a hitch. Surely, the parks board can figure this out, too: A majority of people want to enjoy their …

Smoking ban bad for business says local restaurant manager
WATE.com – Knoxville,TN,USA
By ANN KEIL KNOXVILLE (WATE) — Two weeks have passed since the statewide smoking ban went into effect and for some restaurants, like Charlie Peppers on …


Metro Parks’ Board Defers Smoking Ban

WKRN – Nashville,TN,USA
Members considered a smoking ban with few exceptions late Wednesday. The issue was put off to the board’s next meeting. Across the country, many cities have …

Letters: Smoking ban impossible to enforce
Robertson County Times – TN,USA
Now that Tennessee has passed another unenforceable law: to wit, no more smoking in public places, I ask are we barking up the wrong tree? …

Local health inspectors get few complaints on new smoking ban
WATE.com – Knoxville,TN,USA
By KRISTYN HENTSCHEL KNOXVILLE (WATE) — It’s been nearly two weeks since a statewide smoking ban took effect and so far, Knoxville area restaurants seem to …

Complaints and questions surround smoking ban
WBIR-TV – Knoxville,TN,USA
Phones are still ringing off the hook at the Knox County Health Department as restaurants and customers try to clear the air regarding the “Non Smokers …
Switch to smoking ban goes smoothly, Knoxville restaurant manager says
WATE.com – Knoxville,TN,USA
By MELISSA DiPANE KNOXVILLE (WATE) — It’s been almost a week since restaurants were required by state law to ban smoking. The manager of Dan McGrew’s, …
Signals mixed on smoking ban
Daily News Journal (subscription) – Murfreesboro,TN,USA
The new law was approved by the state Legislature in May, and the effective date of the smoking ban was delayed until Oct. 1 because lawmakers wanted to …
No-smoking ban costs jobs for underage
Knoxville News Sentinel – Knoxville,TN,USA
She and a half-dozen other employees at the bar can’t keep their jobs since a no-smoking ban inside workplaces began Monday. The Electric Cowboy continues …
Smoking Ban And Game Day Business
WVLT – Knoxville,TN,USA
But could the new smoking ban snuff that out? We visited several restaurants tonight where we discovered the new ban had caught some of the Bulldog faithful …
Restaurant owner loses money after smoking ban changes
WATE.com – Knoxville,TN,USA
By WHITNEY HOLMES KNOXVILLE (WATE) — A West Knoxville restaurant owner says lawmakers told him his cigar room was legal under the new smoking ban. …
Knoxville restaurant tries to beat statewide smoking ban
WATE.com – Knoxville,TN,USA
By KRISTYN HENTSCHEL KNOXVILLE (WATE) — A statewide workplace smoking ban goes into effect Monday. One West Knoxville restaurant claims to have beaten the …

Tobacco patrol is not paying off
November 15, 2007
Dear Editor:
Numerous letters have appeared over the past few weeks in opposition to the mistreatment of smokers by our elite, socialists in Nashville. The letters were well written and I agreed with them.
In the beginning the “anti-smokers” argued that their health was being threatened by smokers — even though “second-hand smoke” has yet to be substantiated as a serious health threat. The elites quickly jumped on the bandwagon and raised taxes on tobacco and then banned smoking in just about all public places. But that wasn’t enough to satisfy them as they now want to ban smoking everywhere — including outdoors. The anti-smoking movement has moved way beyond the health issue. It has now reached the “punishment” phase. Smokers are now being punished because they choose to smoke.
Tobacco taxes were raised to reduce the number of people who smoked — for the good of all. Where has all of the increased tax revenue and the “Tobacco Settlement” money gone? It certainly hasn’t been used to help smokers quit. I don’t see any nicotine patches or gum being made available without charge to those who wish to quit smoking.
I’d be willing to bet that it won’t take long for the socialists in Nashville to increase the tax on tobacco again and further reduce public areas where a person can smoke — more punishment!
We now have tobacco police patrolling our state’s borders in search of Tennesseans trying to save a few bucks by purchasing cigarettes elsewhere. Was there outrage in our border states when our tax was lower and their citizens came here to save a few bucks? Did they employ tobacco police to prevent it? Surely, our idiots in Nashville must have realized that tripling our tax would encourage the purchase of cigarettes elsewhere. Apparently, the expected increase in tax revenue has not met expectations. I believe that the shortfall is caused by residents of Border States buying cigarettes at home where they are now cheaper than ours — not Tennesseans buying cheaper cigarettes in other States.
Our Department of Revenue has been very defensive about their program to criminalize the importation of cigarettes by residents for personal use. They claim that only 10 agents are being utilized as “tobacco police” and they seized 900 cartons during the month of October. The tax increase was $4.20 per carton. The tobacco police prevented the savings of $3,780 by Tennesseans for the month. That equates to $378 per agent for the month. How much is an agent paid in salary and benefits for one month? A lot more than $378, I expect. What happens to the cigarettes seized? Are they destroyed or is our state now selling cigarettes? Personally, I don’t believe the Department of Revenue –they cannot patrol 1,000 plus miles of border with 10 agents. Anyone who has been stopped and their cigarettes seized — please write.
Royal Sargent
1037 Brighton Drive
Alcoa, TN 37701
Tobacco tax rebellion is on


November 15, 2007
Dear Editor:
Reagan Farr, state revenue commissioner, has released the figures on cigarettes seized at the borders of Tennessee. According to him, 1,200 cartons have been taken from Tennessee citizens who thought they were still living in the United States of America. That’s 10 revenue agents working at a conservative guess of half a million of our tax dollars in salary to catch a few hundred citizens trying to save a dollar or two on cigarettes.
I don’t know about you, but this police action scares me to death. When and where will this stop?
Tennessee was founded by hard-working, free-thinking, independent people who took care of their own and asked little or nothing from the government. It’s being turned into a politically correct nightmare by our elected officials. I think when they vote on something for the “common good” it’s their common good, not ours.
I was feeling a little guilty about spending so much money out of state. I would rather buy here and support local business but after hearing those figures I will continue to shop elsewhere including all my Christmas shopping until the state stops this harassment of it’s citizens and returns control of privately owned business to the owners. I will frequent restaurants out of state who welcome my money and set aside a small area for me to smoke without harming anyone.
We absolutely need to vote and start electing people who truly represent the people of Tennessee. One of the most important questions we need to ask is who will work to repeal this ridiculous law. It can be done. Prohibition didn’t last long once the citizens decided to fight for their rights.
I know my own small rebellion isn’t going to make any difference but if more of us start making a statement and letting our elected officials know how we feel maybe we can make some changes.
Marge Graham
2636 New Blockhouse Road
Maryville, TN 37803


Choice vs. Edict: A very “smoky” crossroads Author: Steve Trinward
05.30.07
By Steve Trinward
If you want to find out whether or not someone is a libertarian at heart, ask them how they feel about smoking; more often than not, the fascistic underbelly will shine through almost instantly …
I recently experienced the fantasy of nearly every red-blooded hetero-American (or other) man the other night: I was standing at a social event, drinking free beer and munching on free hors d’oeuvres, chatting with several rather tall, very attractive, pleasantly slender, clearly intelligent and creative single women: one blonde, one brunette and one a striking redhead.
What’s more, from my personal agenda, they were all songwriters, who had each come to Nashville, as I did initially, to pursue that craft and perhaps make a living at it. The fantasy continued to play out, as we chatted and got to know each other a bit better; staying “in the moment” became more and more difficult, at least for this little black duck.
And then the conversation turned, and not in a good way, as one of the women commented on the proposed state legislation, to ban smoking in all “public” places, expressing her heartfelt approval of the measure. Then, almost without skipping a beat, both of the other two goddesses chimed in, in total agreement. (Mind you, we were standing in the back-barroom of a local tavern/restaurant, just off Music Row, which — by the choice of the owner and his/her patrons (mainly tourist trade and music industry) — was already … “smoke-free” … voluntarily!)
[Update: June 1, 2007: The Tennessee House passed what the papers call a “watered down” version of the bill, which “specifically exempts bars, tobacco shops, restaurant patios, mechanic shops, small businesses with three or fewer employees, private clubs, private homes and residences as well as allowing a maximum of 25 percent of hotel rooms to be smoking rooms.” Although it is still draconian and mandates rather than persuades, it is at least a little less oppressive overall (nice that they include “private homes” in the list; we wouldn’t want to think we weren’t “allowed” to control our own property, now would we?) – SAT]
I tried to restrain my ire, replying only that this attitude was at the root of much of what was wrong with our society today: if the first impulse when faced with an issue is to pass laws prohibiting behavior, then the idea of “freedom” will always be secondary to the desires of whatever pressure-group happened to hold power. If one wished to see more non-smoking areas around town, one had only to patronize such places as existed, and boycott those that were not.
(Note: That “market pressure” has already created an ever-decreasing number of places where one may light up in public, along with “smoking or non-smoking” as a CHOICE — in restaurants, hotel rooms, and even the majority of the respectable bars in Greater Nashville. The most notable exceptions are either (a) well known as smoker hangouts, or (b) well-ventilated and high-ceilinged, so the effect of smoke on others is minimized.)
I also mentioned that I used to be a tobacco-smoker, many years ago, and now did my best to avoid smoke-filled rooms, did not allow it to be smoked in my own house, and applauded the many local music clubs and bars that had gone “smoke-free” over the time I’ve lived here. (The change in just the last 10+ years has been dramatic and widespread, so that now there really are very few public venues where proponents of this “filthy habit” are not either banished entirely, or at very least sequestered in a small and shrinking segment of the establishment’s environs.)
The response of one of the women, quickly agreed with by her sisters-in-disarmingness, was that this was “a health issue,” and therefore somehow transcended all other considerations. Moreover, she said, since only about 25 percent of Americans still smoke, clearly “the majority should prevail.” I resisted the temptation to make note to this alleged “progressive liberal” that without “minority rights” being upheld, most of the social changes she probably approved of would never have taken place.) She was herself quite determined to wipe out smoking, wherever she found it, because it was somehow her “right to clean air” that was involved here.
I barely restrained myself from pointing out that this was the same mentality as the one about keeping terrorists out -– which led to the passage by Congress, without even reading the text, of the “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorists Act of 2001” (always remember and never forget; it’s only a devious acronym, and not “patriotic” by any stretch). I also barely resisted noting how subtly our rights to be left alone, if we so choose, have been severely eroded by a long string of much less draconian measures, which set the context for the more obvious major depredations (Gitmo, the Military Commissions Act and the essential repeal of habeas corpus, just for starters). Somehow I sensed it would only make more conflict, more shouting … and even less chance any of them would take anything I said to heart.
Then, one of the three women now chimed in, affirming more of this “majority rule” claptrap, and inexplicably began accusing me … of advocating “individual tyranny,” the supposed premise by which any one person could “rule” over even the overwhelming agreement among the rest of society. I tried to point out, still in a fairly even tone, the fallacy involved in comparing the preservation of a “zone of sovereignty” around each of us as individuals, with the “mobocracy” of the herd, in terms of what it leads to as a social order. She just prattled on, continuing with this essentially social democratic cant, attempting to deflect all reason and rhyme on this topic.
I finally snapped, and probably said some things that ensured not only that my back-of-the-mind fantasy would never be fulfilled, with any of these darlings, but that the potential for future friendly encounters with any of them might also be discounted. How, I wondered to myself as I began to spout off, could all of these women — each seemingly so aware and perceptive, and fairly tuned into current issues — fail so completely to grasp the concepts of “choice” and “rights” … concepts which not only lie at the heart of the most essential “women’s issue,” but whose foundations are so essential to creating a civil society in the first place? Why were they so quick to endorse the “point of a gun” legislative methods, instead of seeking to convince and persuade people of the value of their viewpoint, thereby raising consciousness around them in the process, and removing any need for some edict from the throne?
And it hit home, at long last, the question I’ve been wrestling with for some time now: How can we as libertarians -– believing each of us has the right to remain uncoerced (even “ungoverned” in any practical sense), as long as we do not aggress against others — ever hope to convince the world of the validity of our (absurdly simple) position … if at the first sign of conflict, most folks still jump to (as Congressman Ron Paul so aptly put it, back in the first GOP “debate”) the governmental Hobson’s Choice (“prohibit it or subsidize it”) as a paradigm for social change?
Sadly enough, this was not an isolated incident; a few days later, at a party held in a private home (where smokers were asked to go outside to puff, as was the right of the homeowner/tenant/party host), another fully grown woman (apparently rational otherwise) was also appalled, when I suggested that she was perfectly capable of choosing to avoid places where people chose to smoke, or where the property-owners wished to allow it.
To her, it was somehow her “right” to go anywhere she pleased, and be able to know there would be none of those evil tobacco-fiends in her midst. When I expressed my disagreement, mostly with a sad grimace and the beginnings of stating the case, she ended the conversation abruptly with “this is turning into an argument, and I do not wish to have one at this time” … and walked away.
I’ve also had a conversation since then, with a longtime friend -– novelist, publisher, bookseller and Internet entrepreneur Pierre Beaumier -– who’s not only a libertarian, but is also the most courteous and considerate chain-smoker I’ve ever met!
Although he is severely addicted to the danged things, coming into his house is not an encounter with smoke-filled rooms: He’s very careful about room-ventilation, the placement of his cigarettes, etc.; he also keeps several parts of the house smoke-free, with barriers between areas of his own home — out of consideration for his guests, as well as the overall ambience of the house. All in all, I’ve stayed with him and his family on numerous trips, and have never left there coughing or otherwise feeling compromised healthwise, let alone smelling of smoke myself or in my clothing. It can be done, and he proves it, over and over.
Meanwhile, I’d note that in several situations back here in Nashville, when I have entered some of the clubs where smoking is still the norm, I’ve had to leave after a while, just to catch my breath, often being raspy-throated for several hours afterward. I don’t go to those places very often. Meanwhile, one establishment, where I have recently begun to host and book a weekly songwriters’ night, is a smoking-permitted bar/restaurant. However, the place is well-ventilated, high-ceilinged and often features an open-air environment (they remove a portion of the front wall during all but inclement weather, to allow for better airflow).
The challenge there, for us non-smokers (including the songwriter/players) is to pack the place mostly with our fellow non-smokers, who also come to hear the music, instead of to drink, smoke and talk loudly over the tender ballads. I would no more outlaw the smoking of this latter group, than I would attempt to silence their conversation, except by suggestion. It is fairly obvious that this can be resolved with conversation instead of confrontation, and that the only effects of passing this proposed law are twofold:
(a) it lets a lot of politicians take credit next election for changing something that was already in progress naturally; and
(b) it gives a small but vocal minority, whose rights will be severely curtailed, another thing to be angry about. Such a beautiful thing, this participatory demoncrazy is!
Anyway, my friend Pierre also mentioned during the chat that at least one town in his native state (guess which one? Hint: I left there well over a decade ago!) is now on the verge of passing the next step in anti-smoker tyranny: Very soon, it may be possible for a police officer to pull over a motorist for not wearing a seatbelt … and then ticket/fine that person additionally — if even the aroma of tobacco-smoke is detectable within the vehicle. (I told him he must be mistaken, that such a law would be unconstitutional on its face; he said it’s about to be voted on, at least in that town, and is reportedly being watched by those in several other municipalities who would emulate it. I researched it myself, and discovered he’s correct, though the decree is still being held up by a few of the saner town-elements.)
Being the rebel he is, he was planning, if they passed the thing, to drive through the town and pass by a cop -– with his window open and a smoldering cigarette held in plain sight — and then flick the butt in the officer’s direction as he passed him by. I suggested he stop short of tossing the butt, since that might actually be interpreted as an “act of aggression” against said officer, and would also technically be “littering.” He decided instead he would simply drive by and greet the cop with a smile and an extra-long drag on his cigarette.
Anyway, for some reason, I now seem to be stumbling onto a fairly steady stream of otherwise apparently intelligent, thoughtful, caring people — the kind who wouldn’t dream of pushing someone out of their way on the street, or stopping another person from taking a peaceful (even if “undesirable”) action in their presence — who nevertheless see nothing wrong with imposing their preferences on others … as long as they can get the government to do the dirty work for them! (Not a huge surprise, in many ways, but still disturbing to me.)
To bring this home for us liberty-activist types, let’s consider the task before us, in trying to persuade (since we abhor coercion) enough people in our society (since they are the ones who value demoncrazy and so require majorities for action) of the value of personal autonomy, self-responsibility, property rights and all that comes with that: We do unfortunately live in a society, largely composed of the products of Prussian-model public-schooling and mass media indoctrination, that holds that someone’s personal preferences can be turned into mandates, at the mere wave of a majority vote, in whatever political structure is available and deemed appropriate. (I try to remind folks of the wonderful (yet grisly) definition our own L, Neil Smith,/a> made for demo[n]cracy: “The premise by which 51% of a group may vote to KILL AND EAT the other 49%.”
It is thus no wonder so few people “get” what Ron Paul did to (Ru)dolph Giuliani a few weeks ago, in exposing the ignorance and duplicity of both him and the other GOP (and by extension, Dem) wanna-bes for the Penn. Ave. throne. It’s also not all that surprising that the supposedly “enlightened” elements of left-liberalism, self-actualization and spiritual enlightenment have not jumped forward to defend Paul, and to recommend to their fellow locksteppers that the best way to change the Presidential arena might be by expanding the Texas Congressman’s reach, doing all they can to keep him in the debates as well as intoi next spring’s GOP primaries.
(To his credit, Bill Maher had Ron back on his HBO show since then, and rumor has it Jon Stewart will have Rep. Paul as a Daily Show guest in June. Only a few people, mostly self-identified libertarians, have noted the obvious d?j? vu potential, comparing Ron Paul to “Clean Gene” McCarthy, in his potential for bringing down a tyrant, and speeding the end of an undeclared “war” overseas, whether or not he becomes “electable” in the process.)
Or how about the value of the work Cindy Sheehan was doing, when she opened her focus from Shrubbo and his neocon RepublicanT toadies alone, and began to chide the sacred Demoncraps for their own hypocrisy and ineptitude about ending this damned “war on Iraq” (You know, the one Congress never bothered to declare in the first place?). She finally gave up on “speaking truth to power,” when it became evident that the whole antiwar movement has once again been usurped by the hardcore socialists, and the Democratic Party leaders -– just as it was back in the Sixties ( “MOVE On” is only the most obvious evidence)!
Sheehan now says, quite correctly, that her son “died in vain, and for no good purpose.” Had her alleged allies joined her in broadening the targeting to encompass ALL the tyrannies involved, instead of turning their wrath on her for speaking truthfully, one wonders how much effect there would have been, both during and since the last elections.
What’s my point? I’m not sure I have one, except maybe this:
I’ve been claiming for years that the real “critical mass” leading to a paradigm-shift toward greater liberty in our land would come from among the so-called “left liberal” ranks, instead of the “right wing conservative” camp. Now, seeing how utterly stupid and myopic many of the folks on that “wing” of the spectrum actually are, and encountering almost daily those allegedly “progressive” pundits and spokespeople (who either don’t have the foggiest notion of what they are saying and advocating –- or do, and are therefore knowingly and blatantly lying to their followers?) … I’m re-assessing that judgment.
I’m still fairly sure the answer ain’t coming from the “right” side of the aisle; I’m now far less sure the “left” one holds much more promise. If even the folks who seem to comprehend some of the basic aspects of personal freedom (gun issues notwithstanding) can’t even grasp the simple concept of choice over mandates in property rights and “public” venues, we have a long way to go, indeed!


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