Dear Editor,

I’m not a smoker and I don’t enjoy being near smoke, but I disagree with the proposal to ban smoking in private businesses within the city limits of Rolla. We’ve witnessed time and time again how government solutions - no matter how well intentioned - are so often worse than the problems those solutions were intended to address. I believe this is one of those cases. If smoking is banned in Rolla businesses, those who wish to go out and enjoy a smoke with their friends don’t have to drive too far down I-44 in order to find a place that allows it, and that means lost revenue for Rolla businesses and lost tax revenue for the City of Rolla as well. I’d like to see Rolla be a city with a vibrant economy where unemployment is low and opportunity abounds; not a place that pushes economic activity and jobs to surrounding cities.

There are many reasons to oppose a smoking ban, but probably the most important is that these types of bans disrespect one of the more significant and even sacred elements that have led to America’s success – the freedom of private property rights. Unlike many places around the world, in this country we generally respect private property rights and recognize that it’s the place of owners to dictate what legal activity does or does not take place on their property. After all, it’s their property, isn’t it? I may not like that some business owners choose to have their establishments full of smoke, but freedom and private property rights run both ways. I have the freedom to choose not to patronize businesses that disregard my desire to not have my body subjected to smoke. I can take my wallet somewhere else, and many times I do. That’s what freedom is all about – non-coercion. Do we really want to use the strong arm of the law to coerce people to not smoke or let others smoke on their property? Do we really want to burden law enforcement or other government agencies, including the court docket, with the enforcement of such a law when we know full well their resources are already stretched thin? I think not. Freedom sometimes comes with the inconvenience of needing to think through things like whether I should subject myself or my family members to loud movies at the movie theater, eye damaging lasers at the laser tag course, hard-hit softballs on the softball field, or smoke in a local business, but I’d much rather our society be full of people who think for themselves and their families and exercise their freedom to live, eat, work, and play where they want than to be burdened with laws which kill jobs, disrespect property rights, and acclimate people to the idea that government can and even should make these important decisions for us.

As a patron of other businesses, an employee and an employer, as well as a respecter of freedom and private property rights for which so many brave people have sacrificed their lives in the armed services, I for one believe people can and should exercise freedom and individual responsibility and decide for themselves what legal activities they wish to be exposed to. We don’t need a job-destroying law like a smoking ban, and I hope others, including non-smokers like myself, will stand against this anti-freedom smoking ban.  

Jesse Lepich