According to an article on the web site of San Francisco's CBS television affiliate, the Santa Cruz City Council has enacted an ordinance that bans smoking in all city parks, in parking lots and on streets surrounding all city buildings, and on a number of downtown streets, including Pacific Avenue as well as Beach Street between the Municipal Wharf and Third Street.
According to the chair of the Santa Cruz County Tobacco Education Coalition, this law is necessary because: "There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke indoors or outdoors."
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Well, if there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke outdoors, then why only ban smoking on Pacific Avenue and on Beach Street between the Municipal Wharf and Third Street? Why not ban smoking on all streets, sidewalks, and parking lots in Santa Cruz? How can the City Council possibly justify allowing people to be exposed to secondhand smoke throughout the rest of the city if there is no safe level of exposure to this smoke? And how could the Santa Cruz County Tobacco Education Coalition possibly support an ordinance which fails to protect people on the majority of the streets, sidewalks, and parking lots in Santa Cruz?
Moreover, how can the Santa Cruz City Council justify allowing people to be exposed to diesel exhaust in the city? There is no safe level of exposure to diesel exhaust, either inside or outside. Diesel exhaust contains known carcinogens and also causes heart and lung disease. Since there is no safe level of exposure to any carcinogen, there is no safe level of exposure to diesel exhaust in Santa Cruz.
There is also no safe level of exposure to radon, a proven carcinogen. Is the Santa Cruz City Council doing radon testing on all homes in the city and condemning those homes found to contain detectable levels of radon?
There is no safe level of exposure to arsenic, another carcinogen. However, the Santa Cruz city water supply was found to have levels of arsenic of up to 2.5 ppb in 2008. And tetrachloroethylene, another carcinogen, was also detected in the Santa Cruz drinking water supply in 2008. The treated drinking water in Santa Cruz was reported to have trihalomethane levels of up to 87 ppb in 2008. Many of these compounds are considered carcinogenic, and there is therefore no safe level of exposure.
Is the Santa Cruz City Council notifying its residents that there is no safe level of exposure to the city's water supply?
You see, this is the problem: when the only justification for banning an exposure is that you believe no person should ever have to be exposed to any level of that substance, then you open yourself up for this kind of criticism. This is why it is important to be able to justify smoking bans based on actual evidence of substantial exposure and significant health effects. But if all you can fall back on is that there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke outdoors - even a whiff of it - then you are no longer acting in a consistent and justified manner.
Perhaps Santa Cruz should send its residents a warning noting that there is no safe level of exposure to drinking water in the city. Then they could use diesel trucks to bring in bottled water to any and all.