By state law, as of today, restaurants must either be totally non-smoking or have separate ventilated smoking rooms to comply with the “Smoking in Public Places and Indoor Workplaces Act.”

In other words, as of today, if you light up at your favorite eatery, you may be in danger of having to pay a fine of between $10 and $100 depending, we suppose, on the mood of your presiding judge and, perhaps, your belligerence upon being cited.

In our estimation, this new law is just the latest example of government overstepping its bounds.

Make no mistake about it, smoking is a dumb habit demonstrably proven to shorten life spans of those who partake. As such it unnecessarily adds to the financial burden of an already overburdened health care system. No one should do it.

But what rankles us is the government stepping in where free enterprise should rule. We were against the idea of banning television cigarette commercials and we’re against Big Brother stepping in to force restaurant owners to do what their customers have already demanded – smoke free dining.

An eating establishment bent on allowing smoking should be allowed to lose all its nonsmoking customers without the government forcing it to do otherwise.

Lawsuits by a combined force of state attorneys general against big tobacco a few years ago had the false ring of self-righteousness when, in fact, the key issue was much less about the hazards of smoking than it was about money – big money – as a way of punishing tobacco manufacturers.

This is nonsense. If the government wants to outlaw smoking due to its unhealthy side effects, it should go ahead and do so. This attempted death by nipping at its heels in an attempt to bleed it to death runs counter to the spirit of free enterprise.