Over the years, we have seen the ever-increasing role of the state in enforcing “healthy” habits and regulations. The enforcement of morality has affected almost every aspect of our daily lives, from abortion, to drugs, to healthcare. Students in Arizona are some of the newest victims of these laws. Community colleges in the Phoenix-metro area have recently launched a “Breathe easy” campaign to ban smoking on ten campuses. The chancellor of these colleges, Rufus Glasper, said in a statement, “We recognize that making our properties smoke free and tobacco free will mean that some employees and students will have to change their habits, and we want to help them do so.”
The issue of smoking on campus isn’t whether smoking is healthy or unhealthy. The issue is whether one group of people in this case, the administrators of the Maricopa County Community Colleges District- should impose their views of morality on another group. It is an issue of free choice.
Free choice can be a scary concept. With it comes responsibility for your own actions, including actions that might affect others. The concept of free choice is tied very closely to freedom- one of the founding values of America. Yet many conservative Americans fear individuals being allowed to make their own moral decisions. As a society, we want people to be free- but only if they make the “right” decision. The problem is, who is to decide what is “right”? Who is to decide what is “moral”? With ever-increasing laws on morality comes less responsibility and less choice. When the state is there to tell you how to live your life, you no longer have to inform yourself on the consequences of your actions. This leads to dependence on the state and less liberty.
One of the main arguments for regulations like smoking bans, is that these actions indirectly infringe upon others rights. This is a problem for libertarians. While you have the freedom to choose any action you wish, you may not choose an action which infringes on others rights. However, the issue with state regulated smoking bans, is that these areas are public land, paid for with tax-payer money. The answer isn’t to ban anything that might violate someones rights- for once you start to regulate others actions, it’s hard to know where to stop. Do you regulate strong perfume? What about the fumes from cars? The answer lies in determining a way in which tax-payers can share the space.
Another issue libertarians have with regulating morality is that doing so violates an individuals property rights. Your body is, in essence, your property. It doesn’t belong to anyone other than yourself and is the means by which you acquire a living. Just as you should be allowed to do what you want to or on your own house, so too should you be allowed to do what you want to your body. What effects these actions will have on you should be your concern and no one elses. It certainly shouldn’t be the job of a bureaucrat in DC.
The argument for free choice comes down to this: individuals are adults. Why treat any adult as a child, incapable of making decisions for themselves? As adults, we should be allowed the freedom to choose any lifestyle we feel is best for us, the individual. No other group or person should decide this. So tell the state to cut the apron strings and let us grow up- we no longer need their services as a nanny.