Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Denville's Outdoor Smoking Ban Proposal Could Put Violators in Jail

The town council in Denville, New Jersey is considering an ordinance which would ban smoking in wide-open outdoor areas like parking lots, parks, and adjoining sidewalks. First- and second-time violators would be subject to a fine, but third-time violators could potentially be imprisoned.

According to an article in the Daily Record: Violators of a proposed smoking ban in parks and recreation areas would face a fine or community service and — in the case of a three-time offender – risk going to jail under a municipal ordinance introduced Tuesday night. ... The Denville proposal specifies, as prohibited items, cigars, cigarettes, pipes, “or any other matter or substance which contains tobacco.” First-time offenders would face a fine of up to $100, or up to two days of community service. Second time offenders would face up to a $250 fine or five days of community service. Anyone caught smoking for a third time in a park or recreation area would face up to a $500 fine or community service of at least 10 days, “or any combination of fine, imprisonment and community service determined by the municipal court,” according to the ordinance."

The Rest of the Story

Prison for smoking in a parking lot? Or on a sidewalk? In a park? You have got to be kidding me.

I can just imagine the scene in the state prison:

Prisoner A: "What are you guys in for?"
Prisoner B: "Armed robbery. I stole $25,000 from the Denville Savings Bank."
Prisoner C: "Assault and battery with a deadly weapon. How about you?"
Prisoner A: "I lit up a cigarette in a parking lot."
Prisoners B and C: "Whoa. Let's get away from this guy. He's dangerous."

Kind of reminds me of a scene from Alice's Restaurant:

"And I, I walked over to the, to the bench there, and there is, Group W's where they put you if you may not be moral enough to join the army after committing your special crime, and there was all kinds of mean nasty ugly looking people on the bench there. Mother rapers. Father stabbers. Father rapers! Father rapers sitting right there on the bench next to me! And they was mean and nasty and ugly and horrible crime-type guys sitting on the bench next to me. And the meanest, ugliest, nastiest one, the meanest father raper of them all, was coming over to me and he was mean 'n' ugly 'n' nasty 'n' horrible and all kind of things and he sat down next to me and said, "Kid, whad'ya get?" I said, "I didn't get nothing, I had to pay $50 and pick up the garbage." He said, "What were you arrested for, kid?" And I said, "Littering." And they all moved away from me on the bench there, and the hairy eyeball and all kinds of mean nasty things, till I said, "And creating a nuisance." And they all came back, shook my hand, and we had a great time on the bench, talkin about crime, mother stabbing, father raping, all kinds of groovy things that we was talking about on the bench."

In an apparent attempt to make a mockery of the proposal and publicize its absurdity, Audrey Silk of the New York-based smokers' rights group CLASH (Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment) has offered to pay the fine for anyone caught smoking violating the outdoor smoking ban.

According to a separate article in the Daily Record: "The leader of a New York City-based smokers' rights organization is offering to cover the fines of anyone ticketed for lighting up in a municipal park or recreation area. Audrey Silk, a retired city police officer and the founder of CLASH — Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment — said on Monday she saw little financial risk in her group offering to aid anyone snagged under a proposed outdoor smoking ban covering parks and recreation areas in Denville. "It's not going to be very much," Silk said, adding, "Enforcement will be impossible." ... Silk, who learned about the Denville proposal via a Daily Record news story, she said it was the first time she had offered to pick up any fines issued to smokers. "I think Denville was my tipping point," she said. ... "It flies in the face of physics," Silk said on Monday, "to declare that you are harming anybody with a whiff of smoke."

Well, it doesn't fly in the face of many anti-smoking groups, which continue to assert that a mere 30 minutes of tobacco smoke exposure is enough to cause heart disease, and to put nonsmokers at the same risk of a fatal heart attack as long time active smokers.

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