Thursday, January 26, 2006

Proposed Outdoor Smoking Bans Getting More Extreme

My post on Monday, in which I suggested that broad outdoor smoking bans that ban smoking in wide open areas where people can freely move about are spreading like wildfire turns out to have been a bit of an understatement.

An article published yesterday in the San Diego Union-Tribune online reported that the city of Del Mar (California) is considering an ordinance that would ban smoking on all streets and sidewalks.

According to the article: "City staff is looking into the possibility of prohibiting smoking on city streets and sidewalks. The City Council asked for a staff report on the matter Monday night when it voted unanimously, with no public opposition, to ban smoking at Del Mar's beaches and parks."

This is the first time I am aware of that a locality even considered the possibility of a smoking ban applying to streets and sidewalks.

The Rest of the Story

I definitely don't like the direction the program is going if we are now considering extending smoking bans to streets and sidewalks. Frankly, I'm not sure where it's going to end.

Somebody (some organization) from within the tobacco control movement needs to speak out and make it clear that this is not what tobacco control is all about. We shouldn't be all out to simply ban smoking everywhere a nonsmoker might ever be exposed.

What this should be about is protecting the public from a serious and unavoidable hazard. And when the hazard is neither serious nor unavoidable (such as it is with smoking on most streets and sidewalks), we should not have any part in promoting smoking bans, and in fact, should be speaking out against the idea.

I have no doubt that actions of this kind are only going to harm the legitimate aspects of the campaign to promote smoke-free workplaces for all employees. It is going to be increasingly difficult to convince policy makers that we are anything other than fanatics if these kind of policies start to go through.

That's why I think it behooves anti-smoking groups to speak out against this right now.

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