California Cities Consider New Wave of Smoking Bans

Published May 22, 2017

Following the implementation of a ban on tobacco and e-cigarette use in Novato, California in January, lawmakers in neighboring cities are considering similar bans on tobacco and e-cigarette use in public and private spaces.

In January, Novato Mayor Denise Athas signed an ordinance prohibiting tobacco and e-cigarette use in all spaces, government and private, except inside individuals’ automobiles and single-family homes.

In April and May, lawmakers in Dana Point, Mill Valley, and Placentia held hearings to consider ordinances similar to the Novato ban.

Beginning in January 2018, Novato residents caught using tobacco or e-cigarettes in restricted areas will be fined between $250 and $1,000 per violation.

Treating Guests Right

Aeon Skoble, a professor of philosophy at Bridgewater State University, says the owners of private spaces, such as restaurants, are better equipped than lawmakers to determine what their customers want.

“Even if it is a restaurant, the owner is in the best position to know whether his or her customers care about this or don’t care about this,” Skoble said. “You don’t have to be too old to remember when you walk into a restaurant and they ask if you want a smoking or a nonsmoking section.”

Home Invasions

Skoble says lawmakers are overriding residents’ property rights.

“The idea that we can just decide what these rules are going to be and overriding the property owner’s request is not the point of property rights,” Skoble said. “Even if you can make some public health case for that—and I am skeptical that you could—it is going one step further.”

What’s Yours Is Mine?

William Anderson, an economics professor at Frostburg State University, says city governments’ rules governing private parking spaces amounts to government taking property without compensation.

“On the economics side, this is essentially an allocation of government-approved resources,” Anderson said. “The government is imposing costs on business owners that business owners have to absorb, but there are no revenues. You have people impose costs on someone, and that person doesn’t get any return on it.

“On a ban like this, you have the government taking a partial ownership of their property and not compensating them for it,” Anderson said.