Monday, March 20, 2006

Remember that Sliding Scale?

When the DC Council originally passed the Smoking Ban, many feared there would be a sliding scale of impingement on people's freedom to smoke. That it would hardly end at bars and restaurants, and that it would continue to expand into more places, eventually squeezing smokers out of being able to smoke anywhere. They were laughed at. Many people thought the viewpoint cartoonish and absurd. Well, consider the people who argued that the smoking ban was a sliding scale to a complete ban a little vindicated.

Rain was pouring outside City Hall as Councilman Barry Groveman offered assurances that enforcement of what he diplomatically called the "secondhand smoke control ordinance" would be phased in gently. He had just finished fielding inquiries about the new law from reporters in Australia and Spain.

"We're making it acceptable to ask what has been an uncomfortable question until now: 'Would you please put that cigarette out?' " Groveman said. "We're putting the force of law behind it."

He noted that the city is trying to accommodate those who just must light up. The new ordinance allows property owners to apply to set up designated smoking areas outside businesses and offices. These must be at least 20 feet from entrances, walking paths or other areas where nonsmokers might be. So far, only two such areas exist, outside a Calabasas Road electronics firm and behind City Hall.

During Friday's rainstorm, no one was using the City Hall smoking site next to a trash bin. Only one butt was visible in the ash tray.

The new rules exempt residences, backyards, balconies and patios unless they are adjacent to common areas, laundry rooms or apartment complex walkways.

Since when is outdoor smoking harmful to everyone? This, in effect, bans almost all outdoor smoking. As an apartment dweller, someone would be unable to smoke in front of their building (apartment complex walkway, common area, adjacent to street or parking lot) so they'd be forced to smoke inside. How is that better for them? Or better for their kids if they have them? Regardless, this is the next closest thing to making smoking illegal, and I'm sure Christopher Hitchens would say, and I would agree, that this is totally un-American. This doesn't even have the perceived "public health" issue of indoor public smoking. So all of you who thought the fight wouldn't be taken to another level or further after the indoor smoking bans, you were wrong.