Thursday, February 22, 2007

Because We Said So

Wednesday night, February 21st, 2007, the Springfield Public Health Council voted unanimously to come to the aid of those who never sought their assistance. The Council decided to force a smoking ban on private clubs in the name of "public health." Defenders of the integrity of private clubs crowded the hearing to have their voices heard, but in vain. Public Health Council member Dr. Jeffrey H. Scavron stated that while he respected the people who spoke out at the meeting, banning smoking was an important public health measure.

Now, I'm a non-smoker, and I'm also a member of a private club. But the Council, in voting to ban smoking in private clubs, also has continued an unsettling trend in lawmaking that restricts individual citizens from determining their own lifestyles, and so their own futures. We as a society should be supremely watchful of those who make rules which they say are needed to protect us from ourselves.

Let's be clear on the particular matter of private clubs: Every single member is there by choice. Indeed, they asked to join. Yes, it is true that some private clubs have allowed public access to their facilities - or certain parts of those facilities. And any club with such access should have the same requirements [in those areas] as any public facility. But the Health Council overreacted in this instance. Rather than make the prudent judgement that any private club that employs non-members or allows public access to private facilities needs to adhere to public smoking laws in those areas, they instead chose the absolute measure of banning a privately-allowed (and so otherwise perfectly legal) activity altogether. For the good of society, you know.

We've heard this refrain before. Motorcyclists wear helmets for their own good - because we said so. Litigation concerns and insurance issues have brought our entire society to the point of having to think twice before we even leave the house.

Reasonable people understand that there are circumstances where safety concerns should outweigh an individual's right to decide: Drug and alcohol abuse, which effects others. Seat belts for toddlers and youngsters. Even a smoking ban in public facilities. But society needs to draw a line somewhere. And that somewhere should have been with private clubs. The only other private things we have left are our homes and our bodies.

But the noose is tightening.

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