We’ve Officially Gone Off the Deep End

Written by Jeff Johnson on March 30, 2011. Posted in General

County Board votes 6 – 1 to ban smoking anywhere on county property – including in your own car.

The Hennepin County Board voted yesterday to ban smoking anywhere on county property (excluding county roads), including in privately-owned automobiles in county parking lots.  This new policy will replace the one we’ve had on the books for several years which prohibits smoking in county buildings and within 45 feet of any building entrance.  I voted against the change.

Before the final vote, I offered an amendment to exclude the automobile provision from the new policy, but that amendment failed on a 3 – 4 vote (with Jan Callison and Mark Stenglein joining me).

Hennepin County has a strong policy already in place, but for whatever reason, we’re not enforcing it.  That lack of enforcement has led to complaints about employees and others having to walk through a gauntlet of smokers just to get inside the Hennepin County Government Center downtown.  I’ve got a novel idea regarding how to solve that problem – ENFORCE THE POLICY WE HAVE IN PLACE.  It would certainly be less time-consuming and expensive than expanding the policy to an extreme level and trying to enforce that instead.

I understand the rationale behind this ban: Smoking is a very poor personal choice that is unhealthy and potentially deadly and we want to do whatever we can to discourage people from making that choice.  There is a point on the continuum, however, when government should stop trying to prevent people from making unhealthy personal decisions.  Different people will put that point in different places, but can’t we all at least agree that the point falls somewhere short of banning people from smoking in their own cars.

We had a choice to make yesterday between a relatively straight-forward, simple solution to a problem (enforcing our current policy) and a much more complex and expensive solution to that problem (over-the-top expansion of our policy).  We chose the latter.  Only in government…

Below is a good story on our vote from Fox9:

Smoking Banned on Hennepin County Property: MyFoxTWINCITIES.com

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