Tobacco smoking is one of the most dangerous things a person can do in the normal day-to-day choices of life. Unlike alcohol, which has some redeeming qualities, tobacco is a sure ticket to shortening one’s life.
The laws that have restricted public smoking over the last few years have improved the quality of life in restaurants, bars, movie theaters and other places of close quarters. Even many smokers understand the logic behind this.
However, the city of San Francisco may take this a step further. Supervisor Eric Mar is seeking to ban smoking on city property for outdoor events that require permits. This would include everything from street fairs to concerts.
“It’s widely known that secondhand smoke is responsible for as many as 73,000 deaths among non-smokers each year in the United States, and there is no safe level of exposure,” Mar said.
Mar is correct that there is no safe level for exposure to secondhand smoke. Nevertheless, secondhand smoke in the outdoors is quickly dissipated. Secondhand smoke from outdoor cigarette smoking is not sending masses of people to the grave. Secondhand smoke from enclosed quarters is a different matter.
Mar’s proposal maybe going to far. If cigarettes are going to be legal, some accommodations need to be made for people who are intent on killing themselves. Making them illegal only walks society down the same road it is currently on with illegal drugs and the failed path of prohibition. Making outdoor smoking illegal comes dangerously close to opening the door towards banning fireplaces, outdoor pits or even barbequing. None of that smoke is good for a person either. At least in those cases there is a redeeming reason for the smoke. The fire brings heat or cooks food. Smoking does not have anything redeeming.
While the idea at least has some merit medically, Mar’s proposal includes an exception for smoking medical marijuana. The evidence is overwhelming that the drug laws in this country are damaging the nation, particularly those against marijuana. However, the act of smoking either marijuana or cigarettes is not healthy. Nonetheless, marijuana has medical benefits that tobacco does not.
To make a law claiming that cigarette smoking is a hazard but pot smoking is fine makes no sense at all. Besides the unhealthy smoke from both products, smoking pot in public has another reason why it should not be allowed. Under the right conditions, a person could catch enough secondhand smoke to get a bit high. Because of this, Mar’s legislation makes a better case for banning the public smoking of marijuana and making an exception to allow cigarette smoking. Yet if smoking is being banned in outdoor events, it should be applied to all smoking — tobacco, marijuana and anything else that people wants to put in their pipe. Otherwise, it is just best to leave everything as it is.
No place is better than San Francisco at taking a good, simple idea and turning it into an irrational and nonsensical law.