The city of Novato has passed one of the most sweeping anti-smoking ordinances in the country. It prohibits smoking in all restaurants, service areas, public parks, apartment buildings, condo units and more.
In fact, the ordinance is so sweeping that it specifies the two places where smoking is not banned: inside of private cars and in single-family detached homes. Live in an apartment building? You’re out of luck. Own your own condo inside of a complex? Also out of luck. Smoking is prohibited almost everywhere else.
The ban is a natural extension of the extremist logic that has driven other smoking bans in California.
California was the first state to prohibit smoking inside of restaurants and bars, and the city of San Rafael was first to ban smoking inside of commonly-shared homes. This is an increasingly popular kind of regulation, but it’s based on junk science — studies have shown little relationship between second-hand smoke and cancer.
This isn’t strictly Novato’s fault: They’re following the misguided suggestions of California’s Tobacco Education and Research Oversight Committee, which advises that e-cigarette products should be prohibited everywhere traditional tobacco products are.
The regulations effectively outlaw smoking for people who aren’t extremely wealthy. As Steven Greenhut at The American Spectator reported:
The law targets lower-income people given that single-family homes are exempt in a city where the median single-home value is around $745,000. It acknowledges no difference between cigarette smoking, which is unquestionably dangerous, and the use of vaping products and other nicotine products that are far less dangerous to users — and have few discernible “externalities” that could inflict harm on others. It’s an affront to property rights since the law dictates the terms of leases and makes no distinction between private and public property.As an additional justification, Novato’s ordinance cites “the failure of tobacco retailers to comply with all tobacco control laws, particularly laws prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to minors,” even though Novato is a remarkably compliant jurisdiction. According to the Food and Drug Administration’s random compliance checks, Novato has had only one violation in the last five years — a 98.2 percent compliance rate, according to the FDA’s database.
If you don’t own a single-family home or car and your landlord doesn’t choose to provide a carefully designated smoking area that meets the city’s detailed rules, there is no legal place to use tobacco products in the entire city given that it’s banned virtually everywhere else.
Novato’s incredibly stringent regulations are based on bad science and bad statistics. If policymakers want to implement evidence-based policymaking, they would do well not to follow the lead of nannies obsessed with controlling behavior.
From Watchdog.org. By Kevin Glass. Kevin Glass is Director of Policy and Outreach at the Franklin Center.