The Smoking-Ban Vote

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The Smoking-Ban Vote

by Ari Armstrong, April 26, 2006

As I've argued, the smoking ban is a clear and obvious violation of property rights. In brief, business owners have the right to set smoking policies for their property, and owners, patrons, and employees have the right to contract and associate freely. The proper purpose of government is to protect individual rights, including property rights, yet the legislature and governor of Colorado have acted to violate, rather than protect, those rights.

Politicians who supported the smoking ban thereby demonstrated their fundamental lack of understanding of what property rights are and why they are important. Such politicians have proven themselves to be enemies of property rights, and those who claim otherwise merely prove their lack of principle and integrity. Absent a complete renunciation of their pro-ban position and a clear endorsement of property rights, those politicians can never be trusted to protect our rights.

Governor Bill Owens is quite proud of his accomplishment of violating property rights. A March 27 press release from his office proclaims his achievement. Notably, the release doesn't even bother to mention rights.

The release does prove that Owens is a hypocrite. The release offers two arguments in support of the smoking ban: first, secondhand smoke is unhealthy, and, second, smoking is unhealthy. Those arguments don't justify the violation of property rights and individual liberty, but if Owens thinks they do then he should support much more severe restrictions on smoking. While the bill prohibits smoking in restaurants, bars, and most work areas, it is also riddled with exemptions. If the unhealthiness of secondhand smoke justifies the bill Owens signed, then it also justifies a complete ban of all secondhand smoke, including in private homes and casinos. And if the general unhealthiness of smoking justifies the ban, then it also justifies the complete prohibition of smoking.

Of course, Owens's release makes no attempt even to show that the ban would significantly reduce the alleged harms of secondhand smoke, which often is breathed in the areas exempted by the ban and is often breathed by smokers. Preventing smokers from breathing secondhand smoke is hardly an impressive accomplishment. And of course the amount of secondhand smoke varies dramatically with ventilation systems and so on.

But these are secondary concerns. The main point is that the proper role of government is to protect individual rights, not "save" people from their own potentially unhealthy decisions. Of course, on a free market, business owners are free to ban smoking within their establishments, patrons are free to do business only with smoke-free establishments, and employees are free to work where smoking is disallowed. But "Big Nanny" Bill Owens is not content to allow people the liberty to make their own choices and control their own property.

The smoking ban was sponsored by a Republican (Mike May from Parker), signed by a Republican governor, and supported by a number of Republican legislators. This is relevant only in that, once in a while, the Republican Party pretends to be the party that supports property rights.

Here's what Josh Penry, a Republican from the Grand Junction area, had to say about his support of the ban: "I was very conflicted on the issue, but ultimately voted for it after hearing from the restaurant owners and others who were most affected, as well as from the public. Some of the most ardent conservatives I know called in support of the bill. I did vote for a handful of the exemptions, including taverns, which tracked the City of Grand Junction's ordinance. Most of those didn't pass in the end, as you know. In addition to the overwhelming feedback I received from the stakeholders and from the broader public in support of the ban, I was also guided by my own experiences. I've had friends and family members who have died of smoking caused disease. Like I said, though, it was a tough call."

Notice that Penry does not once mention the ideas of property rights or liberty, concepts apparently foreign to the majority of the legislature. Instead, Penry argues that, because some other people supported the ban, he did, too. This is the "Peter Keating" approach to legislating. Some legislators invoked the problems with local ordinances. But injustice by local government is no reason to impose state-wide injustice. Instead, it is a reason for the legislature to block local smoking bans and thereby protect the individual rights of Colorado citizens. Penry then argues that, because he knows people "who have died of smoking," that justifies the ban. But, according to this "reasoning," Penry should advocate the complete prohibition of smoking. And if he knows anybody who has died from gun wounds, drowning in a swimming pool, or a car crash, he should act to prohibit guns, swimming pools, and cars. Penry's "reasoning" is exactly the same as that of the gun banners. Yet many "ardent conservatives" supported Penry in his position, which proves only that many "ardent conservatives" are unprincipled scoundrels without respect for individual rights.

Thankfully, some Colorado legislators are better than that. While not everyone who voted against the ban did so for the right reasons, some legislators actually understand the issues at stake.

The House Journal from February 13, and the Senate Journal from February 28, record the votes for the smoking ban, H06-1175, or the "Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act." (These are available from the legislative web page.) In the House, the ban passed 41-24 (with 63 percent). In the Senate, it passed 21-14 (with 60 percent).

We'll start with the good news. (Numbers represent districts.)

Republican representatives who voted in favor of property rights and against the ban:

Bill Cadman, 15, Colorado Springs
Lauri Clapp, 37, Arapahoe County
Richard Decker, 19, Fountain
Cory Gardner, 63
Ted Harvey, 43, Highlands Ranch
Lynn Christian Hefley, 20, El Paso County
Diane Hoppe, 65, Sterling
James Kerr, 28, Littleton
Keith King, 21, Colorado Springs
Matt Knoedler, 22, Lakewood
Larry Liston, 16, Colorado Springs
Kevin Lundberg, 49, Berthoud
David Schultheis, 14, Colorado Springs
Debbie Stafford, 40, Aurora
Jim Welker, 51, Loveland
Al White, 57, Winter Park

Democratic representatives who voted in favor of property rights and against the ban:

Dorothy Butcher, 46, Pueblo
Morgan Carroll, 36, Aurora
Kathleen Curry, 61, Gunnison
Rafael Lorenzo Gallegos, 62, Antonito
Mary Hodge, 30, Brighton
Wes McKinley, 63, Walsh
Ann Ragsdale, 35, Westminster
Paul Weissmann, 12, Louisville

Republican senators who voted in favor of property rights and against the ban:

Greg Brophy, 1, Wray
Jim Dyer, 26, Centennial
Lewis Entz, 5, Hooper
Ed Jones, 11, Colorado Springs
Kenneth Kester, 2, Las Animas
Doug Lamborn, 9, Colorado Springs
Ron May, 10, Colorado Springs
Andy McElhany, 12, Colorado Springs
Shawn Mitchell, 23, Broomfield
Dave Owen, 13, Greeley
Nancy Spence, 27, Centennial
Jack Taylor, 8, Steamboat Springs
Ronald Teck, 7, Grand Junction
Tom Wiens, 4, Castle Rock

Democratic senators who voted in favor of property rights and against the ban:

None

Now for the bad news:

Republican representatives who voted against property rights and for the ban:

David Balmer, 39, Centennial
Bill Berens, 33, Broomfield
Mark Cloer, 17, Colorado Springs
Bill Crane, 27, Arvada
Dale Hall, 48, Greeley
Mark Larson, 59, Cortez
Tom Massey, 60, Poncha Springs
Mike May, 44, Parker
Bob McCluskey, 52, Fort Collins
Josh Penry, 54, Mesa/Delta Counties
Ray Rose, 58, Montrose
Joe Stengel, 38, Littleton
Jim Sullivan, 45, Larkspur
John Witwer, 25, Evergreen

Democratic representatives who voted against property rights and for the ban:

Debbie Benefield, 29, Arvada
Alice Borodkin, 9, Denver
Betty Boyd, 26, Lakewood
Bernie Buescher, 55, Grand Junction
Terrance Carroll, 7, Denver
Mike Cerbo, 2, Denver
Fran Coleman, 1, Denver
Jerry Frangas, 4, Denver
Michael Garcia, 42, Aurora
Gwyn Green, 23, Jefferson County
Cheri Jahn, 24, Wheat Ridge
Joel Judd, 5, Denver
Gary Lindstrom, 56, Breckenridge
Alice Madden, 10, Boulder
Rosemary Marshall, 8, Denver
Liane McFadyn, 47, Pueblo West
Anne McGihon, 3, Denver
Michael Merrifield, 18, Manitou Springs
Angela Paccione, 53, Fort Collins
Tom Plant, 13, Nederland
Jack Pommer, 11, Boulder
James Riesberg, 50, Greeley
Andrew Romanoff, 6, Denver
Judy Solano, 31, Brighton
John Soper, 34, Thornton
Nancy Todd, 41, Aurora
Valentin Vigil, 32, Thornton

Republican senators who voted against property rights and for the ban:

John Evans, 30, Parker
Steve Johnson, 15, Fort Collins
Kiki Traylor, 22, Jefferson County

Democratic senators who voted against property rights and for the ban:

Bob Bacon, 14, Fort Collins
Joan Fitz-Gerald, 16, Golden
Ken Gordon, 35, Denver
Peter Groff, 33, Denver
Dan Grossman, 32, Denver
Bob Hagedorn, 29, Aurora
Deanna Hanna, 21, Lakewood
Jim Isgar, 6, Hesperus
Maryanne Keller, 20, Wheat Ridge
Paula Sandoval, 34, Denver
Brandon Shaffer, 17, Longmont
Stephanie Takis, 25, Aurora
Abel Tapia, 3, Pueblo
Lois Tochtrop, 24, Thornton
Ron Tupa, 18, Boulder
Jennifer Veiga, 31, Denver
Suzanne Williams, 28, Denver
Sue Windels, 19, Arvada

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