City council tramples on property rights again

Printed in the Bloomington Herald-Times April 25, 2017

To the Editor:

We have reached the point in nanny-state laws that we are legislating manners instead of public safety. This was a theme when the city council voted to ban the use of electronic cigarettes in “public places.” These “public places” are actually private property. The city is deciding for property owners whether they will allow customers to use a legal product on their property.

One councilor suggested businesses are not currently prohibiting e-cigarettes. That is simply not true. Some places in Bloomington do that already. They did not need permission or a mandate from city government to do that. There is no real confusion about what is allowed.

E-cigarettes are not tobacco products and are far less harmful than smoked tobacco. The “harmful chemicals” are detected in trace amounts. Some on the council do not care about that, saying this law is about “common courtesy.” So now we’re legislating manners?

Does the sparse crowd, especially compared to 2003, indicate people do not trust the council to listen to them?

Will the council vote to ban someone with a bad cold from public places?

The county commissioners defeated a similar ban earlier this year. The city council should have followed that example.

One thought on “City council tramples on property rights again

  1. What defines a “public space” is whether someone from the public can enter it uninvited. Thus, stores, restaurants, and the like are public spaces because generally anyone can come and go as they please. Even though the property might be owned by a private individual, that distinguishes it from private property, where if a stranger were to enter they'd be trespassing.

    Because of the nature of a public space, the rules are by necessity different from private property. In a public space, you can't control whether someone with asthma, lung cancer, or some other condition that makes them sensitive to smoke might be on the premises. For that reason, more stringent rules against smoking are warranted.

    You could argue about someone with a bad cold, but the difference is that person didn't choose to have a cold, whereas the smoker can control when they smoke. Likewise, there is no public place where someone needs to smoke, but there are public places where a sick person needs to go (e.g., a doctor's office). In our society, we have to endeavor to balance the rights of individuals when they clash. We don't always get it right, but that's why we have the First Amendment – to assure our ability to debate about it!


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