Tobacco taxes secure property rights

Property rights ought to trump second-hand smoke, but it may be politicians love for tax revenues that snuff out power plays by non-smokers to impose smoking bans in restaurants.

Originally published by Mike “gamecock” DeVine as Charlotte Law and Civil Rights Examiner for Examiner.com

“It’s not about personal freedoms. It’s not about businesses’ property rights. This is a health issue bill.”

That was House Majority Leader Hugh Holliman’s final plea for a statewide smoking ban bill that was voted down 55-61 by the North Carolina House last year. The question is will Holliman and his fellow Democrats in Raleigh and Charlotte, emboldened by the recent election results, try again to limit private property rights.

Tobacco sales are up this year and history tells us that Americans seek more solace in smoke and drink during economic downturns. Revenues for other tax sources go down as revenues from Marlboros and martinis go up.

As for now, Georgia is still the Peach State, Tennesseans still volunteer, and Winstons and Salems may still be smoked in privately owned businesses in Charlotte.

That a majority of Tar Heel legislators rejected the Davidson County Democrat’s nanny-state proposal and upheld rights the framers of the Constitution deemed most indispensable to liberty should continue to win approval from smokers and non-smokers alike.

For James Madison, Father of the Constitution, the legitimacy of government depended on its active protection of private property rights. John Adams declared, “Property must be secured or liberty cannot exist.” The Bill of Rights’ demand that government pay just compensation when it “takes” one’s property fits these sentiments like a hand in a glove.

Air, liberty and workers

Supporters of Holliman’s bill waxed profuse defending “rights” and “entitlements” found nowhere in the Constitution, but they were poised to chuck the most fundamental rights the Constitution meant to protect. No one is compelled to patronize private businesses that allow smoking. And no one has a right to have other people build restaurants for their pleasure in the first place, much less maintain air quality therein to others’ liking. Holliman and other supporters of the smoking ban claimed the bill was about public health and “worker” rights.

Not so.

Concerned about health? How about mandatory masks for waiters where second-hand smoke wafts about? Not called for by Holliman. Coal miners wear masks. Waiters could, too.

The bill was not about health. It was about the rights of workers all right — restricting those rights, not protecting them, as do-gooders claim.

Want to protect workers’ most precious rights? Protect enjoyment of the fruit of their labor. Privately owned property is the fruit of much labor.

In large measure, our Constitution’s property rights produced the miracle known as America. Wealth generated by the miracle in the hands of the most benevolent, free nation in history works for the liberation of millions from tyranny around the world and longer life-spans here and abroad. Miracle-generated resources have made possible the defeat of enemies anxious to reduce the life-span of smokers quicker than the snuffing out of a couple of cigarettes.

In no small measure, the increased life expectancy of Americans results from benefits produced by property-right-incentivized work habits.

The fact is that first-hand smokers today live longer than non-smokers of yesteryear thanks to advances in medicine and technology unimaginable apart from the liberty secured by rights to property.

Smoke alarmists

Property rights created the wealth that buys our freedom and increase our life span much more than second-hand smoke could reduce it — if in fact second-hand smoke does reduce it.

Medical studies cited by ABC News reporter John Stossel refute claims of second-hand smoke alarmists. Common sense called them into question long before that. It takes first-hand smoke a long time to kill the smokers it kills. We are supposed to fear greatly reduced life expectancy when the smoke is diluted thousandsfold?

If workers’ health is not the target, what is?


This is a brazen power grab by the non-smoking majority. They prefer to eat in a smoke-free environment, so all restaurants must cater to their preference. Never mind that the free market continues to create smoke-free restaurants at an amazing clip without aid from legislators.

Do not misunderstand. Despite my skepticism of the dangers of second-hand smoke, my sympathies extend to Holliman, and all other who have lost loved ones to tobacco-induced cancer. I lost a grandfather (age 73) and my father (age 65), both life-long smokers, to lung cancer.

They chose to smoke, despite the warning labels, and died from it. That’s no reason to restrict the freedom that ensured they lived as long as they did.

Besides, since our own Sir Walter Raleigh (pictured above) made tobacco a cash crop over 400 years ago, it has provided politicians an east tax target. Maybe that fact will keep us free.

Mike DeVine’s Charlotte Observer, Examiner.com and Minority Report columns

“One man with courage makes a majority.” – Andrew Jackson