Lick My Ashtray

April 13, 2006

Reading Elisa’s “bu chou!” post reminded me of some recent developments on the smoking front, and an interesting post about smoking as a “wedge” issue.

Back in January, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) made California the first state to categorize secondhand tobacco smoke as a “toxic air contaminant.” My understanding is that this new classification makes it easier to regulate.

This ruling was bolstered by the California EPA’s new research findings documenting a causal link between secondhand smoke exposure and, well…everything: pre-term delivery, asthma induction in adults, breast cancer in pre-menopausal women, heart disease and lung and nasal sinus cancer in adults, and sudden infant death syndrome.

The EPA’s report was exhaustive (pun intended!): it underwent a four-year scientific review process and contained the first-ever outdoor monitoring of secondhand smoke exposure near designated smoking areas in California.

The ruling and the study may ignite (more puns!) legislative efforts to ban drivers from smoking when children are in the car, or from smokers lighting up in multi-family dwellings (i.e. apartment complexes). At a gut level, I am all for such a ban.  I wince when I see a parent smoking in a car full of kids.

But on the other hand, this starts to slide into privacy issues. Many people view their cars as akin to little homes on wheels. Is the driving & puffing any different from smoking out one’s children in a cramped apartment? Is the actual home the next frontier for smoking legislation? And do we want to go there?

I caught this DKos diary by ScottishHighlands, which poses smoking laws as a wedge issue that would spur Republicans to cockfight each other:

I may be off a few points but about 80% of Americans now wonder why we don’t yet have a federal law banning smoking in all workplaces (including bars) as well as smoking in front of children in enclosed spaces like cars and trailer parks. The Republicans, however, are split down the middle on the issue, with the Redneck crowd claiming that smoking is a “property rights” issue. If you go to FreeRepublic and do a search for “smoking”, you will see these pathetic people openly bragging about smoking in front of their children and firing barworkers who complained of asthma and asked their employers to please ban smoking in their workplaces…

Please get journalists to ask Republican politicians what they feel about bar and restaurant employees being exposed to smoke in the workplace. Get journalists to ask Republican politicians what they feel about parents smoking in automobiles with toddlers strapped into carseats. Sit back and watch the sparks fly as Neocon Yuppies abandon these Republicans like rats abandoning a sinking ship.

While I agree that smoking bans might be a wedge issue for Republicans, I believe it cuts both ways. With sexual matters and other privacy issues, liberals lean libertarian. Stay out of my bedroom! US out of my uterus! Paws off my medical files and library check-out records! Is it inconsistent for us to turn around and say No Fumar in your own house?