Smoking ban defeated without a vote

There may not have been a vote on the proposed smoking ban by the City Council on Tuesday night, but the defeat for the bill’s supporters was no less resounding.

With city staff and the city manager lined up in opposition to the Boulder City Smokefree Ordinance, along with many citizens, the American Lung Association asked the Council to withdraw the bill from consideration.

Unlike in March 2012 when the council asked the association to gather more information and narrow the ordinance’s focus, I believe the bill’s supporters knew a “no” vote from the council was likely. How would the lung association be able to push its agenda of banning smoking in other jurisdictions when the one town in Nevada without casinos, nightclubs, convention centers and strip clubs sent it packing?

Although city staff and city manager opposition focused on enforcement issues and business impact, public opposition was driven by rights: the rights of a business owner to operate how they see fit, the rights of smokers to gather and smoke at bars.

The city received 46 emails before Tuesday’s meeting, 45 expressing opposition to the smoking ban.

I believe that if you did a door-to-door poll of local residents, the majority would support a smoking ban. A poll taken on the Boulder City Review website found 62 percent of the responders supported a smoking ban.

Fortunately, that is not the type of society we live in.

While we elect our officials largely by popular vote, we don’t exist in an American society where pure majority rules every decision. French political philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville popularized the term “tyranny of the majority” in his 1835 book “Democracy in America” in which the majority pursues and places its interests in front of the minority group.

But America is, to me, about protecting the rights of the minority of those among us.

In the case of the proposed smoking ban, it was the right of the owners of the Backstop Sports Pub and the Inner Circle to continue to operate their businesses under current Nevada law. Patrons should smoke without local government interference.

I myself find smoking a disgusting habit. But it’s not illegal. I am glad this attempt failed, and I hope we don’t see it again.

Maybe in five or 10 years the mood against smoking will be so great that the change will come. Maybe the business owners will decide that allowing smoking is bad for business and will make the change on their own.

Maybe that change will never happen; that’s fine, too. I can vote with my feet and choose not to go to a bar that has smoking.

The reasons the lung association came to Boulder City, I believe are twofold. First, if the group could get the ordinance passed, there would likely not be a business owner or group with deep pockets willing to challenge the law in court.

Second, I think the smoking ban supporters looked at the City Council after the 2011 election and saw a council with four Mormons they thought they could sway. In the Doctrine and Covenants, founder Joseph Smith wrote that “tobacco is not for the body, neither for the belly, and is not good for man.”

While it didn’t come to a vote, if that was a strategy, it, too, failed.

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