Thursday, March 15, 2007

Santa Cruz County Bans the Mere Possession of Tobacco Products in Parks

According to an article on San Francisco's KRON web site, the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday night to ban not only the use but the possession of tobacco products in any county parks. Anyone who lights up or chews smokeless tobacco would be subject to a $92 fine. And anyone who merely possesses cigarettes or smokeless tobacco would also be subject to the same $92 fine.

According to the article, the purpose of the ordinance is to reduce secondhand smoke exposure and to reduce the risk of fires: "Samuel [the parks director] says, 'Second-hand smoke is a known carcinogen. We believe our children deserve a clean, safe place to play.' ... The smoking ban applies to everyone and any type of tobacco, even smokeless. Officials say the idea is to keep the county's 30 parks free of second-hand smoke. Samuel expects the ban to reduce the number of park fires caused by smokers."

The Rest of the Story

If the purpose of the ordinance is to reduce secondhand smoke exposure and reduce the risk of fires, then why would it be necessary to outlaw the mere possession of tobacco products? And why would it be necessary to outlaw the use or possession of smokeless tobacco? So far as I am aware, smokeless tobacco produces no secondhand smoke and does not cause fires. What am I missing here?

Unless I'm missing something, it appears that there is some sort of ulterior motive that the County supervisors have in banning the mere possession of tobacco products in parks.

I'm not a smoker, but it is my sense that if you do smoke, you may likely carry a pack of cigarettes around with you. If you don't drive, and rely on public transportation or walk or ride a bike, then you are going to have that pack with you wherever you go. What this ordinance essentially means, then, is that you are basically not welcome in that park. You cannot enter the park with your cigarettes, even if you have no intention of lighting up, without risking a rather significant $92 fine.

It seems to me that treating tobacco products as such an illicit possession that you have to go undercover with to even enter a park is inappropriate. Moreover, it might even have the perverse effect of making tobacco use more appealing to adolescents, especially those who are rebellious. And isn't that pretty much all of them?

Combined with my earlier post about Belmont's proposed ban on smoking on all sidewalks and streets and its current plan to make permitting smoking in these places to be a criminal offense, I rest my case that the anti-smoking movement has lost its bearings and is going too far.

(Thanks to GreatScot for the tip.)

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