The Alaska Legislature approved a bill that would prohibit the use of cigarettes and e-cigarettes in privately owned spaces such as bars, restaurants, and taxis.
Senate Bill 63 would expand the state’s ban on tobacco use in government-owned spaces to include the interior and immediate exterior of many businesses.
The Alaska Senate approved S.B. 63 in March 2017. The state’s lower chamber approved the bill in May 2018 and sent it to Gov. Bill Walker for consideration.
Lost in the Smoke
Ninos Malek, a professor of economics at De Anza College, says the rights of property owners typically get ignored in debates about smoking bans.
“The two sides that are always discussed are smokers, who feel they have a right to smoke, and nonsmokers, who feel they have a right to smoke-free air. What we forget about are the property owners. Why don’t they have a right to determine their policy, just like you and I do in our own home?”
Alaska state. Sen. John Coghill (R-North Pole) says S.B. 63 would use government power to force some people’s choices on others.
“What they did was, they banned smoking in all public places, and then gave you an individual right to smoke, as long as you weren’t in someone else’s public presence, essentially,” Coghill said. “It’s pretty coercive, in that it gives the long arm of the government, and people that find smoking so offensive, the ability to use that long arm against certain people.”
Malek says telling people which legal behaviors one may or may not do in a home or business owned by someone else is wrong. S.B. 63 does not prohibit smoking in private residences.
“It’s not my right to go to somebody’s home and tell them they can’t smoke in their own home,” Malek said. “You don’t owe me a dinner, and it should be your choice since it’s your home.”
Says Legislation Inflates Government
The bill would improperly expand government power, Coghill says.
“I’m not a smoker,” Coghill said. “I don’t agree with smoking, but this is really using the coercive power of government way beyond what I generally consider acceptable.”