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It seems to be only fitting and proper that we read in the May 18, 2012, edition of The Lancaster News of Lancaster County Council’s plans to institute a strict smoking ban for the county.
As we consider the economic tragedies of the past 20 years in Lancaster County, as well as both Carolinas, including the loss of textile manufacturing, the failure of the furniture manufacturing business and lawsuits against tobacco companies – the one industry that the Carolinas could not afford to lose – it seems tragic that it had to come to this unnecessary County Council action.
It is indicated the planned smoking ban would be modeled after those adopted in York and Greenville counties. However, I would think as leaders interested in maintaining the rights and freedoms of Lancaster County citizens, County Council should not be a follower of counties that cater to politically correct ideas, but strive to maintain the freedoms of Lancaster County citizens.
While one cannot argue with the good intentions of the council’s latest plans for the supposed preservation of the good health of its citizens, one also has to consider the total picture this planned smoking ban will entail.
Reading about this planned ban, one cannot help but be reminded of all the restaurants and bars throughout the United States running helter-skelter the past few years, enforcing the outright banning of the use of a legal product – smoking tobacco of any kind – “for the protection of our own good health!”
All the while, these same restaurants and bars continue to serve and allow products, namely food and alcohol, to all their patrons, thus endangering the lives of many more persons than could possibly have been harmed by continued use of tobacco products.
Medical science has proven the harm caused by using tobacco. However, one cannot argue that tobacco products should be banned, while at the same time, tobacco taxes are freely collected and, as far as I’m aware, there are no laws on the books of any state in the union prohibiting the manufacturing and sale of tobacco products.
It would seem if tobacco use was so dangerous as to demand these prohibitions, somewhere along the line a law would have been passed to make use of tobacco in any form illegal. Yet, no such law has been passed, nor will it ever be passed.
First, to my knowledge, use of a legal product cannot be banned.
Second, the taxes generated by allowing tobacco products to be sold are of such part and parcel of the economic well-being of this country, I cannot conceive of any way such taxes could be done away with anywhere in this country.
However, let us not argue about legalities, taxes or health concerns, all of which could be argued from now until doomsday without solving anything. The subject of my letter has more importantly to do with the actual wording contained in the planned County Council ban announced in the article spoken of in my first paragraph about instituting a smoking ban.
Read the article carefully. The planned country ordinance “would prohibit smoking in all enclosed public places, including restaurants, retail stores, motel lobbies, clubs and bars.” That is an all-reaching proposal. What the County Council proposal is doing will affect legal businesses in not only the city of Lancaster but everywhere in Lancaster County. I would think that the owners of all the public places affected by this proposed tobacco ban would have quite different feelings about County Council’s proposal.
I would also think that the patrons and all citizens of Lancaster County who do business willingly in all of these legal establishments would have something to say about their ability to use legal tobacco products, simply because the County Council has decided they know better than the citizens and are willing to institute this ban affecting the free choice of said citizens as they go about their perfectly legal business activities while entering and enjoying the use of these legal establishments.
Again, I want to stress that one cannot find fault with any action that would help protect the citizens of Lancaster County from engaging in habits that would tend to put their health at risk. However, at the same time, I cannot help but amend the foregoing sentence by adding that unless – and until – County Council can answer the questions I have raised about the use of legal products like tobacco, I do not see how the proposed ordinance could possibly be passed and still maintain the good will of Lancaster County citizens.
Charles V. Seng is a Lancaster