DATE: 1/01/2004 04:16:00 PM
Maine, Nanny State - As of today, Maine's bars and pool halls are smoke-free. According to this story from the Bangor Daily news, the law was passed to "protect those who work in bars and lounges from having to breathe in secondhand cigarette smoke." Like the law that banned smoking in restaurants, this law was passed overwhelmingly by both houses of the Maine legislature. Another similarity is that both laws were passed despite strong objections from those who own and work in restaurants and bars.
I personally do not smoke, and don't like it when others smoke around me. I think smoking is a silly and destructive habit. End of disclaimers.
My personal feelings about smoking, though, aren't enough to make me support this new law. Once again, the state of Maine has made life harder for those who operate small businesses. Restaurant and bar owners have the right to run their establishments as they see fit, with minimal government interference. Employees who work at a business have the right to go elsewhere if they are dissatisfied with the work environment. Customers have a right to spend money at businesses that cater to their needs, and avoid businesses that do not. This law takes those decisions out of our hands in the name of public health. People who visit and work at bars where others smoke are adults, who have the right and ability to make choices about where they drink and where they work. This law treats them like children.
Secondhand smoke is a problem, but it should not be used as an excuse to limit the freedom of small business owners who are already saddled with excessive regulation, taxation and licensing fees. With the best of intentions, Maine has just ensured that the revenue raised by those taxes and licensing fees will decrease as businesses lose customers and close doors.