Today most Americans (53%) live in areas that restrict smoking, and my guess is that a much higher percentage is just fine with some restrictions.
But the anti-smoking crowd keeps pushing to expand and tighten regulations. It seems that many lines that casual observers assumed would never be crossed are already being crossed. Will the folks who passively go along with the movement ever cry uncle?
Naturally, California is doing a lot of the crossing:
- The Southern California city of Calabasas broke new ground for the United States in spring 2006 when it banned smoking in all public areas, including sidewalks. As of March 1, Emeryville will have anti-smoking laws almost as tough as Calabasas, with new widespread smoking bans, including in parks and on footpaths.
San Francisco now bans smoking in city parks, golf courses and public squares, and Belmont made international news in November with its pending proposal to ban smoking citywide, except in detached, single-family homes.
The Calabasas ordinance elevates smoking violations to criminal misdemeanors, and if the Belmont proposal passes (as it almost certainly will) condo and apartment-dwellers will be forbidden from smoking inside their own homes. Remember the good ol' days when the Bay Area wanted to keep government out of our bedrooms?
Of course the banners don't confine themselves to California. This article notes the growing movement to ban smoking inside public housing units and apartments in Washington state. (I'm fine with the apartment ban since apparently landlords themselves are pushing for it.)
In December, Henry County, Georgia "voted to prohibit the use and possession of cigarettes and similar tobacco products in all parks owned by the county."
Second-hand smoke researcher and smoking ban crusader Dr. Michael Siegel has apparently cried uncle. He now has big problems with the movement he helped create:
- "It's a grass-roots social movement that's been so successful that it doesn't know where to stop," Siegel continued. "It's getting to the point where we're trying to protect people from something that's not a public health hazard."
At risk, he and other like-minded tobacco control advocates assert, is not only the credibility of public health officials but also the undermining of a freedom prized in democracies -- do as you wish as long as you don't harm others.
Surely, one line that won't be crossed is adoption.