In a failure of Progressivism, San Rafael allows people to smoke in their single family homes

I hate the smell of cigarette smoke.  Hate it!  Hate it!  Hate it!  That hatred is entirely separate from hating the way cigarettes harm people’s health. Even if they were healthy, the smell would disgust me.

Having said that, I hate even more ordinances that prevent people from smoking cigarettes in their own homes.  The town of San Rafael, just north of San Francisco, has gone ahead and passed just such an ordinance.  If the news story is correct, the only serious exception to the new ordinance is for single family homes.  Otherwise, if you’re a smoker (and you really shouldn’t be, because it’s bad for you and rude to others), you are seriously out of luck:

San Rafael officials approved the county’s toughest anti-tobacco ordinance to date on Monday, banning smoking from all apartments and condominiums, in addition to parks, bus stops, restaurant patios and many other outdoor spaces.

The measure is aimed at protecting people from secondhand smoke, officials said.

“What we are really considering is the impact of others,” Mayor Gary Phillips said Monday before voting with his four city council colleagues to approve the ordinance.

The ordinance includes special restrictions for the downtown area, banning smoking from sidewalks and plazas except while smokers are “actively passing on the way to another destination.”

The new rules are similar to those adopted by the city of Larkspur, the county Board of Supervisors and other Marin agencies. However, San Rafael is the first to ban smoking in all apartments and condos; others allow designation of some units for smoking.

In San Rafael, landlords, condo boards, employers, public event organizers and the city manager could still designate some outdoor smoking areas, with restrictions. The areas would have to be 20 feet away from places where smoking is banned and 100 feet away from children’s areas or recreation areas such as playgrounds and swimming pools.

The San Rafael ordinance spells out some indoor areas where smoking would still be allowed including single-family houses, vehicles, up to 20 percent of hotel rooms and tobacco shops that are not attached to other structures. Actors in theater productions may smoke onstage if “smoking is an integral part of the story and the use of a fake, prop, or special effect cannot reasonably convey the idea of smoking in an effective way to a reasonable member of the anticipated audience,” according to the ordinance.

Let me say again that I hate smoking.  If I was a landlord, I’d include in my lease a clause prohibiting tenants and their guests from smoking on the premises.  Then I’d willingly face the marketplace, which might favor my smoking prohibition (so that I could charge higher rents) or might leave me with vacant units.

I also don’t have a problem with designating certain areas in public spaces as smoking or non-smoking.  Just as smokers should be able to smoke (despite the fact that it’s a foolish and costly habit), non-smokers in public areas should have a chance to be free of smoke.

What I don’t like is having a police state tell me what I can do in my home — and during the term of my lease, that apartment or whatever else is mine.  If the landlord doesn’t want smoking going on, that’s one thing.  For the government to interfere is an unconscionable intrusion on freedom.

As for smoking’s harm, the best we can and should do is to keep educating people.  More importantly, make it socially unacceptable, especially amongst teens.  Right now, because adults are so anti-smoking, more and more teens seem to be smoking to prove how cool and rebellious they are.  And as we know, all the regulations in the world won’t stop a teen determined to break the rules.

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