According to an article in the New York Times, the new outdoor smoking ordinance in Calabasas is so broadly written that it outlaws smoking in one's car if the windows are open and smoke could drift out and affect a nonsmoker, thus requiring smokers to keep their car windows closed if they are smoking in their cars.
According to the article: "Smoking in one's car is allowed, unless the windows are open and someone nearby might be affected."
In defending the law, the mayor of Calabasas stated that the city is trying to "push the envelope. This is clearly a groundbreaking public health law. This is the right time and the right place to take this step. We hope it will be the way things are done all over the country and all around the world."
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At first glance, this appears to be an absolute joke. You've got to be kidding me. The city of Calabasas is banning smoking in cars with a window open because the smoke might drift out and cause health damage to a nonsmoker. Give me a break!
It's hard to take policy makers like this seriously when their argument is that drifting smoke from a car with an open window is a serious enough public health problem that the city needs to legislate that you have to keep your window closed or refrain from smoking in your car.
I thought I was on pretty solid ground in calling anti-smoking groups which supported this law fanatical, but it looks like I may have been "under-exaggerating."
At second glance, this is not such a joke. It could actually create a significant health hazard for passengers in cars with smokers - especially young children. Instead of having the windows open to get some ventilation and help clear out the smoke and reduce the childrens' exposure to secondhand smoke, now the children are going to be exposed to higher concentrations of secondhand smoke.
The ordinance, allegedly intended to protect the public's health from some sort of serious hazard, is actually creating a new hazard that didn't previously exist: extremely high exposure to secondhand smoke among children in cars with a smoker.
Smokers who are attempting to reduce their children's exposure to secondhand smoke by keeping windows open in their cars while they smoke are now actually committing a criminal offense - a misdemeanor - if a nonsmoker might be exposed. To protect themselves from a hefty fine, a potential criminal record, and a possible lawsuit, they may logically decide to just keep the windows closed and thus expose their children to much higher levels of secondhand smoke than before the ordinance.
What this all goes to show is that the ordinance is not truly a "public health law," as the mayor declares. It is really about policy makers and anti-smoking groups punishing smokers because they are offended by their behavior and expressing their superiority to a group of people who they apparently despise.
So I certainly hope this is not the way things are done all over the country and all over the world. Now is the right time to put an end to this lunacy.