By Seth Grossman, Political Columnist
On Wednesday, February 28, 2007,? the mostly Republican city council of the Mainland suburb of? Linwood prepared to adopt a new law, and create a new crime.??? They would make it illegal to smoke any “cigar, cigarette, or pipe” in any outdoor park owned by the city, “including, but not limited to the Bicycle Path”. (Although 5 of 7 council members said they favored the ordinance, the chose to delay adoption because of opposition from several members of the public, including me.)
The Linwood Bike Path, of course, is far more than a park.?? It runs three miles through the entire length of the town and reminds me of the Boardwalk.? People from all over the Mainland, walk, talk, jog, walk their dogs and generally relax and enjoy themselves there.?? Some, like me, use it to get to work.?? Some of them smoke.
?I know that second hand tobacco smoke can harm others in confined indoor areas.?? But a lit cigarette outdoors causes far less pollution than a passing car, an outdoor barbecue, or even a home hot water heater.
?So why is Linwood’s council banning smokers from its Boardwalk??? I see it as one more example of New Jersey politicians and residents getting bullied and brainwashed by government funded “charities” with a political agenda.
?Every day, you read about environmental, arts, and historic preservation groups demanding more laws, more money, and more government action to support their causes.
But most of them have these things in common.?? They are funded by the government.? Their spokesmen are well paid by their organizations.?? And the things they demand? require more government spending and higher taxes, fines or fees.???? A part of those higher taxes, fines, and fees? often ends up in the pockets of? those noble ?public? advocates.?
In Atlantic County, the anti-smoking crusade is led by Dr. Robert Zlotnick, Executive Director? of Atlantic Prevention Resources.? This non-profit “charity” has a budget of $551,000, of which 95% comes from the government.?? Zlotnick gets paid $75,000 a year.
?Zlotnick spends lots of time on political agitation.?? He produced and placed radio ads and other propaganda, and lobbied for legislation that banned smoking in restaurants, bars, casinos and other public places.?? He lobbied for higher cigarette taxes.??? He gives interviews to newspapers as far away as Colorado.
Zlotnick also has access to our public schools.?? Two years ago, Mainland High School paid a faculty advisor, and sponsored a club that lobbied the city councils of Linwood, Northfield, and Somers Point for new laws to ban smokers from all outdoor parks and bike paths in all three towns.? (When I asked to balance his propaganda and talk to students about respecting the constitutional rights of unpopular minorities like smokers, I was refused.)
?I agree that smoking is harmful, and we must warn people, especially young people,? of its dangers.?? I agree that we need laws to protect non-smokers from being exposed to indoor second hand smoke against their will.??
?But we have no right to target smokers with $5 of direct and indirect taxes on a product that sells for fifty cents.? We have no right to stop smokers from eating and drinking in smoke filled taverns,? if other smokers are willing to work there.?? And we have no right to stop someone from smoking outside on a sidewalk or a bike path, where nobody else is harmed.
?America declared its independence in 1776, with the idea that each of us has “certain unalienable rights” and these include “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”.?? The founders of New Jersey included those words in Article I, Section 1 of our New Jersey state constitution.
?Our “unalienable right” to pursue happiness includes the right to do things that others might think are stupid, harmful, and dangerous.? We are free to smoke, climb mountains, skydive, poke alligators and swim with deadly sea skates like Steve Erwin, and eat greasy french fries, as long as we harm nobody but ourselves.??? The rest of the world always ridiculed America for embracing this freedom, and yet this liberty gave our nation the prosperity,? power, energy, and vitality known as the American Dream.
?What if your child sees someone smoking on the Bike Path??? Teach your child how to deal with freedom, and the responsibilities that go with it.?? Sooner or later, children grow up, leave home, and make their own choices.?? I disagree with parents and schools who completely insulate their children from every harsh and unpleasant thing in the real world ?until they get their driver’s license or leave for college.? Successful parents teach their children to see and recognize the good, the bad, and the ugly while they are young, so they can recognize and do the right thing on their own when nobody is watching them.?? That is the essence of true liberty.
For more information, visit www.libertyandprosperity.org or contact Somers Point attorney Seth Grossman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 609-927-7333.