Submitted by John Todd.
February 13, 2008
Senate Judiciary Committee
Topeka, Kansas 66612
Subject: My testimony presented in OPPOSITION to Senate Bill No. 493 concerning crimes and punishments relating to smoking.
Mr. Chairman and members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, thank you for allowing me this opportunity to speak to you in Opposition to passage of Senate Bill No. 493 concerning crimes and punishments relating to smoking, aka the Kansas smoking prohibition act.
My name is John Todd. I am a self-employed real estate broker and land developer from Wichita. I currently serve on the Governmental Affairs Committee and the Board of Directors of Wichita Independent Business Association. I am the Wichita Area Volunteer Coordinator for Americans For Prosperity—Kansas. I have been working with the Wichita Business and Consumer Rights Coalition in an effort to stop a smoking ban ordinance currently being debated by the Wichita City Council. I appear before you today as a private citizen, speaking only for myself and not for any other group.
I do not smoke, but does that give me, or even the majority of non-smokers in our state the right to use state law to restrict the rights and freedoms of those people who choose to smoke? A Democracy is like two wolves and a sheep deciding where to go for lunch. The lone sheep would have to agree with De Toquiville who described that situation as the “tyranny of the majority.” The pledge of allegiance describes our country as a “republic.” Our founders established a republican form of government in order to protect the individual’s rights from the tyranny of the majority.
The sale and use of tobacco products is legal in our state. The sale of tobacco products produces tax revenue for our state, and government officials think that is positive. And, our Federal Government still subsidizes the growing of tobacco in tobacco growing states.
The passage of Senate Bill # 493 is not needed because the smoking problem has been solving itself, for several years on the local level, without government intervention by the natural and voluntary action of our free market economic system. Over the last two to three decades, restaurants, bars, and other businesses have been “voluntarily” regulating smoking and non-smoking in their businesses all over our state without the need for government mandated regulations, and without the need for government enforcement. This move to non-smoking establishments has been consumer driven, and businesses have voluntarily responded to this demand. Some businesses owners still choose to offer smoking for their customers since their customers demand the freedom to smoke. Freedom demands choice by business owner and customer. And, Private Property Rights are best preserved when property owners are free to use their property as they see fit. State government needs to stay out of the smoking debate.
Several cities in our state have adopted smoking ban ordinances while others have not. There are studies that show smoking bans cause economic harm to some businesses, and I have heard testimony from business owners in Wichita who have or will be impacted negatively by the passage of a proposed smoking ordinance by the City of Wichita. Like most regulations, the ordinance is complicated to the point of making it unenforceable. And, who is going to enforce the ordinance? Will additional city staff and the resultant bureaucracy be required for enforcement? What is enforcement going to cost? Will enforcement be selective or arbitrary? What economic impact will the ordinance have on business? Is the ordinance even necessary?
The proponents of the ordinance are voicing concerns about public health and public health costs associated with smoking. Will this same group be pushing for city ordinances dealing with obesity with mandated diet and exercise? What will the penalties for failure to comply? Who will decide the standards?
The proponents of the proposed city smoking ban ordinance appear to be the same group who want to direct the lives of other people since they know what is best for them. They have no problem supporting law that limits individual freedom of choice, and private property rights.
Milton Friedman says, “A major source of objection to a free economy is precisely that…it gives people what they want instead of what a particular group thinks they ought to want. Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.”
The “voluntary” and “market-driven” solution to the so-called smoking problem has been happening automatically all over Kansas without the need for additional state law that criminalizes and punishes people who are partaking in their freedom to enjoy a legal product and activity. Senate Bill #493 looks like another regulation on the backs of business and property owners with the potential for creating an enforcement process that will be impossible to police, but at the same time create another level of expensive bureaucracy for a non-existent problem. I ask you to oppose the passage of Senate Bill #493.