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A Big Victory for Bars and Freedom in Ohio

February 25th, 2010 Matt View Comments

I’ve written in the past about how attorney Maurice Thompson of the Buckeye Institute’s 1851 Center for Constitutional Law is a true patriot and the most important figure in the fight to shrink Ohio’s government that you’ve probably never heard of.

Thompson has been defending Columbus-based Zeno’s bar, which the state has sued repeatedly for violating the smoking ban by allowing those health nuts you often find in bars lighting up. Thompson filed suit challenging the constitutionality of applying the ban to bars that restricted to people at least 21 years old.

And the court just ruled against state health department:

Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge David E. Cain in Columbus has ruled that the state health department overstepped its legal authority in enforcing the state’s smoking ban against Zeno’s, a Columbus bar.

The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, which defended Zeno’s in the case, has scheduled a news conference today, Feb. 25, at 1:30 p.m. to discuss the ramifications of the decision.

In his ruling, stamped Monday, Feb. 22, Cain declined to rule on the constitutionality of the smoking ban but vacated citations issued against Zeno’s.

Preventing bar owners from allowing their patrons to smoke is a ridiculous notion. And since the fines don’t penalize individual smokers, I have even heard stories where bars can send people into other bars to smoke and help their competition rack up massive fines. It sounds like this sort of nonsense appears to have  just stopped.

The enforcement of the smoking ban has been wildly inconsistent, and redirects money that could be spent by the state elsewhere. So far, taxpayers have paid $2 million for the ban since 2007, and the state has reportedly spent $3.2 million to identify businesses that are looking for infractions and to process them through the court systems.

And while this ruling doesn’t overturn the entire smoking ban or explicitly decide the constitutional question, its a HUGE step in the right direction!

It is so exciting that it makes me want to take up smoking. I’ve been meaning to become more like Don Draper anyway after watching three seasons of Mad Men on DVD.

But seriously, I really want to see these types of pro-liberty lawsuits continue, so I hope you join me in making a tax-deductible donation to the Buckeye Institute and joining the 1851 Center’s Facebook page for updates. AG Cordray’s office has already announced they will appeal this case, and fighting the state is extremely expensive.

Update: Marc Kovac posted video of Thompson’s press conference here.

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