It has been said that people have the right to go to bars and restaurants without having to breathe in second-hand cigarette smoke. In fact the Labour government has said it repeatedly. Indeed not only have they said it, they have legislated for it. Smoking in bars and cafés is to be banned by Act of Parliament.
The government, ably assisted by hordes of self-righteous health-fascists, has decided that the people of New Zealand are no longer capable of making our own choices; instead we have Annette King and Helen Clark to do that for us.
Cigarette smoking may well be bad for you, as may second-hand smoke. Few people deny this. But this legislation has crossed the line between encouraging healthy living and blatant social engineering.
This “right” not to breathe in second-hand smoke is not a right at all, it is a socialist fiction. In order for there to be a right to go to bars and be free of second-hand smoke, there must first be a right to go to bars. Quite clearly there is not.
By common practice we go to bars lacking a specific invitation. We hop between dozens of clubs along Courtenay Place as though they are public places. However, just because we have come to treat people’s businesses as public places where we are entitled to be, doesn’t mean they are. Bar owners may well be inviting all of us to come in. However they can cancel that invitation at any time. Many do (especially if you forgot to put on your good shoes, or if you are slurring your words, or perhaps if you fell over and are covered in your own blood…just for example…). In other words, we are only entitled to be there while we have the permission of the owner (or their delegate). That is why I find it so incredulous when people claim they have a right to not breathe in second hand smoke. It is as though they are saying, “Yes, Mr Bar Owner sir, I would like to go to your bar. I look forward to it. But once I’m there I might find some of the activities unpleasant and as such I think that I might pass a law to force you to make my stay more comfortable”.
Simply put: you should not make laws to ban things taking place on other peoples ‘ property merely because you don’t like them. The government has spent millions of dollars on education campaigns. Every New Zealander knows the risks of smoking. If people choose to take those risks that is their choice. It should not be the role of governments to go around banning things just because Helen Clark finds them irksome.
This really does determine the issue as one of blatant social engineering. Going to the pub for a cigarette and a pint is a favourite pastime of many New Zealanders. It may well be a particularly unhealthy pastime, but a pastime nonetheless. The majority of New Zealanders do not smoke, however just because we are the majority does not mean that we should dictate the behaviour of the rest, merely to suit our preferences. If you are afraid of the health consequences, stay at home. Do not assume you have the undeniable right to go out to the pub and then proceed to legislate to change the notion of what is ‘going out to the pub’ to suit yourself. That is the tyranny of the majority, and despite being neither a smoker nor a bar owner, I can see that in any reasonably liberal and tolerant society people should not go around banning things just because they don’t like them.