Friday, March 31, 2006


Smoke outside, go to jail for six months

From The Liberator Online:

When cities, towns, and states started passing smoking bans -- making it illegal to light up in restaurants, bars, and business establishments -- libertarians asked: What's next? Will busybody politicians eventually ban smoking outdoors?

Well, yes. Effective March 17, the town of Calabasas, California banned smoking almost everywhere. It's now illegal to smoke on Calabasas sidewalks, parking lots, streets, parks -- and even on your home's balcony -- if a non-smoker is nearby. The only exceptions to the law are inside private residences and specially designated hotel rooms. You are allowed to smoke outside, but only if "no non-smoker is present is not reasonable to expect another person to arrive." (It's even a crime to smoke outdoors in the presence of a non-smoker who gives you permission to do so!) Violate the ban and you face up to a $1,000 fine and six months in jail. A court can also find someone guilty of "allowing, aiding or abetting" illegal smoking.

But there's more. If someone smokes in your presence, you can sue them for statutory damages of $250 for each violation. Even better, if you can convince a jury that the smoker was guilty of "oppression, fraud, malice, or conscious disregard for the public health and safety" when he lit up, you can sue for punitive damages. With so many juries eager to awards millions in damages, every cigarette in Calabasas is now one match away from igniting a lawsuit.

That's why Jacob Sullum of Reason (March 8) warns other cities and towns that may decide to emulate Calabasas: "Americans should consider whether they really want to embrace the Calabasas spirit of moralistic intolerance masquerading as 'public health.'"

Indeed. And this new law is bound to make libertarians ask: What's next? Will busybody politicians now ban smoking all together? Stay tuned.

Yes, oh yes they will try.

Its weird really. It intensifies the harm done to one individual and their family. This approach will likely increase the harm to one's children, spouse, and pet. It really is absurd.
The stupidest part (and I think the one that can be successfully legally chanllenged) is that as a non-smoker, I can't give permission to my smoking friend to smoke around me.

This is a clear-cut government infringement on individuals' ability to make contracts. I think at least that portion will be struck down by any sensible judge. Hopefully, someone will challenge it. Soon.
Additionally no one recognizes dispersion and differing levels of air pollution. That's pretty much why it has been generally okay to smoke outside -- just not directly around other people.

Yes smoke creates externalities, but they are dispersed (and costs are minimized) through proper venhilation and air circulation.
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