State smoke rules go up in smoke

State smoke rules go up in smoke

Public university officials, who are supposed to be smart, should be smart enough to establish campus rules.

Nanny staters — those supreme beings who feel compelled to make life decisions for their moral inferiors — get tired of being labeled in so negative a fashion.

If they'd only get tired of trying to micromanage other people's vices, they'd never hear those words again. But since they won't quit, we can't quit pointing out how obnoxious their continued overreaching can be.

The University of Illinois and Danville Area Community College recently took steps to ban smoking on their campuses. Whether you like or don't like the idea, whether you think trying to enforce such a ban is more trouble than it's worth, whether you think someone smoking a cigarette while standing alone in the middle of the UI Quad poses a serious public health threat, there's no denying the adults who run the UI and DACC can set their own rules.

They don't need people like state Sen. Terry Link, a Waukegan Democrat, telling them what to do.

Link, like many politicians, thinks otherwise. So he drafted legislation that would ban smoking on all public university property in Illinois.

The good — bordering on astounding — news is that Link's legislation fell five votes short of passage last week.

The bill has been placed on postponed consideration, meaning that it can be put up for another vote if Link thinks he can get the 30 votes he needs. He may yet get them. After all, the state legislators who've failed to handle the state's most important responsibilities — budget, debt, public pensions — have to tell their constituents they did something during all the time they spent in Springfield.

This is not an issue about the merits of smoking. Smoking is a nasty, unhealthy habit.

The question here is who should decide if public institutions want to expand their ban from their buildings to all of their outdoor property. Our view is that it ought to be the people who run the institutions, not some legislator who thinks one size should fit all.

Debates about smoking become less relevant with each passing year because smokers are a distinct minority. Fifty years ago, half of all adults smoked. Now less than 20 percent do.

This sea change in personal habits ought to be a cause for celebration. Instead, anti-smoking zealots have grown increasingly enraged that an intransigent minority still lights up. That's why they keep trying to adopt more stringent rules, raising tobacco taxes and pushing smokers to the fringe of society.

Unfortunately, the template has been set. The nanny staters already have targeted food, liquor, and soft drink consumption as subjects for increased regulation, and they'll be certain to think of more. Since they won't rest in their effort to dictate other people's choices, those who reject their overbearing nature must continue to resist.

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