An Honest Liberal Asks: “What’s Wrong With A ‘Nanny State?’”

no smoking nazi sign

Thank you, Professor Ronald Bayer.

First, thank you for doing something the Left is ever-more reluctant to do: Science.

Over the last few years, you may have noticed more “no smoking” signs have cropped up on parks and beaches. They’re part of a larger trend banning smoking at outside, public areas. In fact, smoking has been banned in 843 parks and more than 150 beaches in the last two decades.

Public health officials have long argued the bans are meant to eliminate dangers from secondhand, or “sidestream smoke,” reduce the environmental impact of cigarette butts and to keep young, impressionable children from picking up on bad habits. Makes sense, right? But a new article in this month’s Health Affairs looks at the shockingly slim evidence behind these bans.

“I discovered the evidence was really weak. The evidence of harm to non-smokers on the beach or in a park from someone smoking is virtually non-existent,” said Professor Ronald Bayer.

“Virtually non-existent.” In other words, having a cigarette in a park or parking lot hurts nobody but you–despite what dingbats in your local health department say.  

So why ban smoking outdoors if there’s no evidence of harm?  This is my second reason to praise Professor Bayer: Honesty.

I actually think these bans on parks and beaches represent, I think, a kind of paternalism, a kind of nanny state. The question is, is the nanny state so wrong? If we could eliminate 400,000 deaths a year over time because fewer and fewer people smoke, would that be so bad? And I think not. But I think public health officials are afraid to make the case that directly, so they get caught in making a case that, I think, is easily picked apart.

Finally! Thank you for admitting what we already knew, that telling grown ups what to do is all about making THEM be good, not about protecting others.

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Just one question: Does Nanny Statism work?

PBS NEWSHOUR: Have these bans proven effective? Is there any link between more of these bans and lower smoking rates, or healthier populations?

BAYER: That’s a good question, and actually, the evidence is still weak. It’s not clear.

So public smoking doesn’t hurt anyone else, but we’re banning it anyway to discourage people from smoking…which ALSO doesn’t work?

Now that’s liberalism in action!

UPDATE! Even dumber is the government health departments’ attack on e-cigarettes: completely harmless, no second-hand smoke, and they’re STILL trying to ban it.


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Michael Graham
Radio talk show host, columnist for the Boston Herald, stand-up comic and former GOP political consultant. Learn more about Michael here.

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