CATO Scholar Helps Snuff Out Smoking Ban

from: Cato Daily Dispatch 14mar01

The village of Friendship Heights has repealed a smoking ban considered the toughest in the nation, concluding that continuing the legal fight to enforce the ban after two adverse court decisions could harm the national movement to take the war on smoking outdoors, according to The Washington Post.

The court challenge to the smoking ban was brought on by Assistant Director of Cato's Project on Global Economic Liberty Jacobo Rodríguez, a nonsmoker who lives in Friendship Heights.

The Village Council, which gained international attention last year when it banned outdoor smoking in public places such as parks and sidewalks, voted unanimously Monday night to repeal the ban.

Robert A. Levy, Cato's senior fellow in Constitutional Studies and an expert on tobacco litigation, argues that the Friendship Heights smoking ban represents meddling, snooping, busybody government at its worst. He says the ban is dismissive of the rights of an unpopular minority — namely smokers — without any basis in the Constitution, science or logic. "All a nonsmoker has to do to escape unwelcome outdoor tobacco fumes is take a step or two away," says Levy. "That's not too much to ask to promote civility without shutting down all social contact."

"Ordinarily, we rely on common courtesy and mutual respect when individuals relate to one another," Levy says. "But nosy, intrusive government has polarized the dispute between smokers and nonsmokers. As a result, venom has replaced respect and obstinate behavior has replaced common courtesy. It is government, not secondhand smoke, that has poisoned the atmosphere."

Founded in 1977, the Cato Institute is a nonpartisan public policy research foundation headquartered in Washington, D.C. The Institute is named for Cato's Letters, libertarian pamphlets that helped lay the philosophical foundation for the American Revolution.

The Cato Institute seeks to broaden the parameters of public policy debate to allow consideration of more options that are consistent with the traditional American principles of limited government, individual liberty, and peace. Toward that goal, the Institute strives to achieve greater involvement of the intelligent, concerned lay public in questions of policy and the proper role of government.

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15 mar 2001