This letter is in regard to the legislation that has been passed in Starkville, Oxford, and Hattiesburg (and is under consideration in Meridian) that bans smoking in restaurants and bars. Will this legislation lead to healthier environments? Sure. That is not the question under scrutiny, though or, at least, should not be. The question under scrutiny should be whether or not it is the government’s role to pass and enforce such legislation in the first place.

With more deaths and ill health resulting from obesity and a poor diet than cigarette-related deaths and complications, if the government’s role is to play mom/schoolmarm/nanny/family physician, it should be more concerned with fast food joints and the quality of food served in restaurants and bars than in the presence of cigarettes. Perhaps the city of Meridian should consider shutting down all fast food dives (might not be a bad idea considering there are not too many things more obnoxious than the glowing Golden Arches and a manic clown peddling gross burgers). Or, here is an idea: we could legislate that buffet-based restaurants install smaller doorways that will simply not physically accommodate the obese. Just imagine obese would-be patrons trying to squirm their way inside. I guess they could eat at tables located 20 feet from the restaurant, along with smokers, right? After all, personal accountability, choice, and volition are moot points when it comes to government policies. Wait! Maybe restaurant chairs and booths could be rigged to have a spring release mechanism in order to eject those unruly patrons who eat more than a healthy serving size. Not only would it ensure that people eat more healthily, it would also add a tremendous amount of comic appeal to what might be an otherwise dull dinner date. While we are on a roll: motorcycles. Dangerous, dangerous, dangerous! All motorcyclists should be safely snuggled away in cars. Speaking of cars, how many people die each year in auto-related accidents? Right, the government should see to it that we walk to wherever we need to go. Anyway, it is much more gratifying to flip the bird to a person who cuts you off on the sidewalk than on the interstate.

Hopefully, what I am trying to convey has been made manifest by this point. The choice to make an establishment either smoke-free or smoke-welcome should be left in the hands of the owners. People can then choose to either support or deny such an establishment with their money and presence or lack thereof. Ultimately, sales will reveal the wisdom of either keeping an establishment smoke-free or smoke-welcome. Recourse to municipal legislation, in this regard, is nothing less than a bullying act.



Joshua M. Maeda

Meridian

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