A recent Associated Press article reflects how fast the United States is becoming a police state. Effective January 1 California motorists can be fined up to $100 if they are caught smoking in cars with minors. However, the police cannot stop a motorist for just breaking the law of smoking while driving with someone under age 18. The traffic stop would have to be made for some other infraction of the law, such as speeding or making an illegal turn.
The article goes on to say that at least twenty states and a number of municipalities have considered limiting smoking in automobiles where minors are present. Arkansas now bans smoking in cars with children under age 7. Louisianna limits smoking when children under 14 are in the vehicle. Maine lawmakers take up the issue next year. In Arizona, the law forbids restaurant and bar owners to allow individuals to smoke inside their place of business. More and more bans on smoking in the workplace and near playgrounds are becoming more prevalent as well.
Smoking is a very dirty and disgustful habit and can cause many negative health situations to many individuals, even to those who do not smoke. However, passing laws and turning individuals into criminals is not the proper method of encouraging individuals to change their so-called evil ways. Laws against drinking, using certain drugs, and prostitution have not eliminated those activities. In many cases the exact opposite effect has taken place.
The real problem lies in the statement quoted in the article made by California state senator Jenny Oropeza who authored the bill and reflects the attitude of most elected officials today. Senator Oropeza stated, “Protecting the health of our children is among government’s highest responsibilities. It is clear that increasing public awareness about the dangers of secondhand smoke is the right thing to do.”
First, it is not government’s responsibility to protect anyone from anything except to protect the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness inherent in all human beings with the emphasis on the word “pursuit.” Negative rights, such as those proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence, are rights to be free from interference and coercion by others as well as government officials, and do not contradict the exercise of the same rights of others. Positive rights, such as a claim to free or subsidized health care, or a smoke free environment, are claims to the service, involuntary if necessary, of other individuals. Positive rights, as expressed by the state senator and many others, contradict the negative rights of others and allow society to devolve into a police state.
No one has a right to happiness, just the right to seek it out, search for it. The reason no one has a right to health care, an education, an income, or a smoke free environment is because it requires some other individual to provide such an environment with his property. Forcing someone to do anything is not right even if the majority thinks it is right. Making individuals into criminals for entering into activities that harm themselves only fosters a police state as history has shown.
Second, making individuals aware of the dangers of secondhand smoke and any persuasion, not force, to do so is proper for anyone, including government officials in which to engage. There is a gigantic difference between persuasion and creating a law forcing an individual to engage in certain behavior. If one individual feels his body or his property (his body is his property) is being harmed, then the harmed individual can ask for compensation from the person perpetrating the harm and government courts are in place, if needed, to adjudicate such action. In other words, it is the responsibility of the individual, not government, to see to it grievances are settled.
The purpose of government officials is to see to it that private property and the rights to that property are supported and protected. Fewer laws, whether they be requiring people to have insurance or to stop smoking results in fewer individuals smoking and more individuals obtaining insurance. Smoking is a very bad habit to get into, but it certainly is no crime.
“Ben Franklin” will be at the Booth Machinery conference hall November 1 at 7 PM to provide an electrifying evening for the Yuma community to visit with the sage of America.
Dr. Earl Taylor, president of the National Center for Constitutional Studies, will discuss the applicability of the Constitution to many of today’s situations December 4 also at the Booth Machinery conference hall at 6:30 PM.