As an asthmatic who loves to drink beer in bars, I am really looking forward to July 1, when most public places in Colorado are expected to go smoke free with the passage of HB 1175. The bill will exempt casinos, some hotel rooms and (of course) tobacco stores. The big problem, for me and for many Colorado employees who currently work in unhealthy environments, is that there is a powerful movement to also exempt bars that hold "tavern licenses" as opposed to restaurants that have bars in them. The bill might not pass if the tavern exemption is put back in, because restauranteurs who support the current bill don't want their competitors to offer smoking. In the meantime, people like me will continue to be assaulted in bars by other people's smoke.
I'm always amazed at the framing of this debate as one of personal rights versus government mandated healthy behavior. What about my personal rights? Shouldn't I be free to go to a bar without risking an asthma attack? If the answer is, well you can choose to stay home, why doesn't that argument apply to smokers? If they want to smoke they can stay home. This is just a balancing of two competing claims, and to me what tips the balance in favor of regulation is the interest in protecting restaurant and bar employees from the dangers of second hand smoke.
An even worse argument is that this somehow interferes with the rights of property owners. That's the same argument raised against workplace safety and anti-discrimination laws. I'm shocked and disappointed to see a so-called Democrat like Sen. Lois Tochtrop of Westminster frame the issue as one of property rights. Even Republicans believe in regulating property owners' use of their property. If that's the way she feels she should re-register as a Libertarian. Otherwise, quit the bogus posturing. I probably should note here that support for the smoking ban is cutting across party lines, with a majority of House Democrats and half of House Republicans voting in favor.
Finally, there is the argument that it isn't the government's business to try to make smokers lead a healthy lifestyle. I agree with that. But it isn't the motivation for this bill. Sen. Ron Teck (R-Grand Junction) sponsored a bill to cut off Medicaid benefits to smokers as a way of giving them an incentive to quit, and I am glad that bill failed. Go ahead and kill yourselves in the privacy of your own home, but don't drag me down with you with that second hand smoke.