GARNET DAWN'S SPEECH TO ILLINOIS SENATE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE ON PROPOSED ILLINOIS STATE-WIDE SMOKING BAN BILL- 10-23-06
Chairman Silverstein, Senator Cullerton and members of the board, thank you for inviting me to speak today.
My name is Garnet Scheuer and I am the president and chairman of Illinois Smokers Rights. We are a relatively new organization that has developed from the ground swell of smokers and non-smokers who object to wide spread discrimination and moral persecution of smokers. We promote pro-choice alternatives and share informational and educational materials. We are a grassroots organization devoted to the promotion of limited government, protection of personal property rights and preservation of personal life style choices.
We are truly grassroots, and are creating new alliances within Illinois communities, colleges, newspapers, and private businesses to build a network of informed citizens on personal freedom issues. We will continue to gain strength as more and more of the public becomes aware of the pro-choice issues at stake.
First and foremost, the health risks of second-hand smoke are vastly exaggerated. The poison is in the dose...and the dosage from SHS in a decently ventilated and filtrated establishment cannot pose health threats. To date, no tobacco studies have been able to conclusively prove the health risks from Environmental Tobacco Smoke. Smoking bans are not about health. They never have been. They are about power, money and control.
Our previous Surgeon General Carmona issued a massive (727 page) study as one of his final accomplishments, stating that "The debate is over". However, contrary to his media statements and the Executive Summary, the report was simply a rehashing of the same studies that have already been circulated and are still inconclusive. In response to his report, many written and verbal rebuttals by recognized and qualified professionals in the scientific and medical communities have also been published.
Since the Illinois Clean Indoor Act in 1989 banned smoking in public buildings, tobacco smoking has been eliminated from all indoor areas where the public may be required to go, and has greatly reduced any exposure to tobacco for people who find it objectionable.
Now, the remaining private businesses, particularly in the hospitality industry, and the great out-doors are being targeted by tobacco control activists. A fact seemingly ignored is that approximately 70% of restaurants and bars have already elected to become smoke-free....and that should be their choice because they are still privately owned businesses and on personal property....even if the public is invited to enter. People are not stupid. They are not children. They can make their own choices and they can also see ashtrays on tables or smoking patrons. Individuals need to retain their right to choice without interference from government.
That is why this country was created as a Constitutional Republic with a Bill of Rights. The common belief that we are a "Democracy" is wrong. We are not governed by mob rule. We are all Americans, and smokers deserve respect too. Our Veterans, who are also being targeted with smoking bans in their own private clubs are also being persecuted. That is a very poor way to say "thank you" to the men who have fought to preserve OUR freedom.
Illinois has a population of over 12.7 million people. According to the United Health Foundation.org in 2005, smokers still represent 22.2% of that number in Illinois. That means over 2.8 million smokers are being targeted by Tobacco Control Activists in Illinois alone.
Our organization is named Illinois Smokers Rights because smokers have rights too! Smokers may be in the minority, but their rights are no more and no less than non-smokers and tobacco control activists. All our rights are intended to be equal.
That means free trade should determine the preferences of business owners and individuals. Business owners need to have their property rights defended, not removed. More restrictive smoking bans in restaurants and bars will not save one single life. The carcinogens inhaled by a patron from alcohol evaporation originating from a martini in one hour are greater than the threat from second hand smoke from an evening in a smoky bar.
Small businesses account for two thirds of the jobs and sales revenue in our country. A great number of those small businesses are hospitality establishments. (According to 2002 Census stats and NIASC records, we have over 12,400 individual bars throughout Illinois!)
Smoking bans do hurt small businesses. Economic studies that bundle together revenue levels from large chain restaurants, previously smoke-free businesses and fast food operations with privately owned restaurants, bars and bowling alleys, do not reflect the true damage done to the individuals who have been brave enough to invest their futures, money and time into their businesses.
State-wide smoking bans do NOT create a level economic playing-field; they create a level economic basin. This is easily validated when financial growth levels in states with smoking bans are compared with the growth rates of other smoke-friendly states.
Smoking ban activists are highly paid professionals who need to continue to expand smoking bans to ensure continued funding for their agencies and organizations. These bans are promoted by massively wealthy Charitable Organizations, such as the American Cancer Society. As is common knowledge, the ACS spent $4 million dollars to promote passage of the Chicago smoking ban. A minority of tobacco control representatives are promoting these bans. The public is not crying out for them. What do you think would happen to public support if Tobacco Control funding to flood the media with anti-smoking/anti-smoker messages was stopped?
There is a lot more at stake here than just "smokers rights". The attack on smokers and bars and restaurants is the tip of a dagger aimed at the heart of all our liberties. This is about our basic American values: Individual liberty, freedom to associate with others, the right to privacy and to private property. Wars have been fought over this...America's War of Independence was fought for these rights. When smoking is banned at George's Pub and Grill, you don't just inconvenience smokers or strike a blow for public health. You violate my private property rights, and simultaneously violate my individual liberty, my right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness".
This is happening to ALL of us, and that is why we have almost as many non-smoking supporters as we do smoking supporters in Illinois Smokers Rights and why our numbers and determination will continue to grow.
Thank you for inviting me to testify on behalf of pro-choice advocates in Illinois.
Garnet Dawn - The Smoker's Club, Inc. - Midwest Regional Director
The United Pro Choice Smokers Rights Newsletter - http://www.smokersclubinc.com
Illinois Smokers Rights - http://www.illinoissmokersrights.com
Illinois Smokers Forum - http://groups.yahoo.com/group/illinoissmokers/
mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org - Respect Freedom of Choice!