“It’s a safety issue, not a freedom issue”

The following letter from Dave Godfrey of Webster Groves was published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on 02.28.2009 [edited on-line version at URL: http://tinyurl.com/des5as].

Take a look on-line to see posts from Bill Hannegan and others attacking Mr. Godfrey and one from me supporting him.

“Clayton is considering an ordinance that would prohibit smoking in public facilities. As expected, there has been the usual outcry from the “smokers’ rights” lobby (usually funded by the tobacco industry), claiming these laws are an affront to individual freedom, personal choice and private property rights. Unfortunately for both smokers and the tobacco interests, none of these arguments is valid.

Tobacco smoke is the leading cause of disease and death in our society today. Inhalers can expect 400,000 deaths this year in the United States alone. Non-smokers living or working with smokers can expect an additional 50,000 deaths.


It is also indisputable that virtually all civilized, Western societies have passed laws regulating business behavior that effects personal safety. Health and safety standards for restaurants, carnival rides, street-corner hot dog vendors, etc., all are based on the concept that freedom to operate a business is not absolute. When a business opens its doors to the public, it is subject to rules and regulations designed to protect both customers and employees alike. Private property rights are not a license to endanger the public. Just because you own the building does not mean you may expose your customers or employees to asbestos, radon, bacteria-contaminated counter tops, carcinogenic smoke, etc.


There appears to be no other public policy that makes it acceptable to put your employees’ and customers’ health at risk as long as it doesn’t detract from the “bottom line.” But contrary to the tobacco interest’s claims, there is not a single scientific study that has shown that the implementation of smoke-free entertainment facilities has resulted in reduced revenue over the long term. 

Contrary to some smokers’ claims, work force laws do not deny a smoker’s right to smoke. It discriminates only against smoke, not the smoker. 


Imagine the reaction if it were shown that tobacco smoke transmitted the HIV virus. Would anyone ever again visit a smoke filled bar or a restaurant that had a “separate but adjoined” smoking section? This would be an open and shut argument. But alas, cigarette smoke only transmits lung cancer, respiratory illness, emphysema, heart disease and asthma.”

3 responses to ““It’s a safety issue, not a freedom issue”

  1. Pingback: North Carolina Mesothelioma Attorney, NC , asbestos exposure, NC Legal advisors

  2. WOW, Awesome article Mr. Godfrey

  3. Reese Erick Forbes

    I have wondered if tobacco smoke could be a vector for the spread of other disease. If a smoker is blowing stuff out of their mouth and lungs, which is more forceful than simply breathing, more moisture and spit comes with that smoke and we definitely know that aids in the spread of many diseases.

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