Smoke Gets in Your Rights


California Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, has introduced a bill to make it illegal for people to smoke in their own homes — if they live in an apartment or a condo or a multifamily home. When last I wrote about Levine, he was pushing a statewide law to require grocers to charge for bags. Now he’s after cigarettes — but only the legal kind. With his new AB 746, Levine is following a trail blazed by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who pushed a law prohibiting the restaurant sale of large sugary drinks, which a New York judge overturned.

One politician thinks he has the right to tell New Yorkers what they can put in their stomachs. Another thinks he has the right to outlaw Californians smoking in the sanctity of their own homes. These two must think they are gods or kings. Or dictators.

They know what’s best for you, so they feel free to force you to behave — for your own good.

“I’ve got to defend my children and yours and do what’s right to save lives. Obesity kills. There’s no question it kills,” quoth Bloomberg in defense of his erstwhile ban on Big Gulps. Never mind that people could purchase two drinks if they wanted to get around the law. Why even bother?

I asked Levine whether he has any qualms about passing a law that tells people what they cannot do in their own homes. Offenders would be subject to a $100 fine.

“When you think about this issue, we send our children to school in a smoke-free environment,” he answered. “Our offices are protected by workplace laws, and where we should feel safest to breathe clean air, in our own homes, is the last unprotected place from secondhand smoke.”

In other words: No. Because smoke can leach from one apartment to another and secondhand smoke can kill, Levine said, he is standing up for families who don’t want smoking neighbors (whether nonsmoking families want him to or not).

Levine did add that his bill would allow apartment dwellers to smoke in “designated” smoking areas. But those areas, if they qualified, would be outdoors — outside one’s home.

Observe, please, how Bloomberg and Levine have chosen the easiest targets a politician can pick on — fat people and smokers. Not that they would call them fat people and point with derision. No, they moan about the ill effects of obesity on health. Ditto smoking.

These guys wouldn’t dream of restricting the rights of people who engage in risky behavior that is popular. I asked Levine: Would his bill apply to people smoking medical marijuana?

“That’s not covered in this,” Levine responded. “I am much more concerned with cancer-causing secondhand smoke than cancer-easing medical marijuana.”

That’s interesting. According to the American Lung Association, “marijuana smoke contains a greater amount of carcinogens than tobacco smoke.” What about all those apartment-dwelling children who risk being exposed to secondhand marijuana smoke? That’s different.

Will his bill pass? Levine answered, “Whether it passes today or not, it will pass soon.” And: “We already have a law that says if you’re driving in a car with minors, you can’t smoke.”

That’s how governments take away liberty. First it’s in restaurants, and then it’s at work. Then they hit your personal space — a car with kids. People get used to the restrictions, and once a ban applies to one venue, it seems natural to expand it to others. Now a California lawmaker wants to make it illegal for people to smoke in their homes. What next?

Email Debra J. Saunders at: [email protected].

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