The crusade against public tobacco use has long been predicated on protecting people from “secondhand smoke.” Sparing non-smokers from tobacco fiends’ cariogenic emissions was the logic that compelled cities from Paris to New York to even Richmond, Virginia (home of Phillip Morris!) to kick smokers out onto the curb. And whether or not public smoking bans went too far in terms of dictating to private businesses how to conduct their affairs, there was, at least, a somewhat compelling justification for imposing them: Why, after all, should smokers be permitted to poison those who consciously chose not to inhale?
But public smoking bans have wafted ever farther into areas where “secondhand smoke” seems an unlikely scourge. Parks, beaches, public streets – all have been increasingly deemed smoke-free. Some places have even banned the public “vaping” of electronic cigarettes, even though they contain no tobacco.
Now San Francisco has gone ahead and banned the public use of something that emits no smoke at all. The Associated Press reports that, “San Francisco has become the first city in the nation to outlaw chewing tobacco from its playing fields, including AT&T Park, home to the San Francisco Giants.”
The AP continues, “The San Francisco ordinance is part of an overall push by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, based in Washington, D.C., which targeted the city and California to promote its anti-smoking efforts. An even more expansive bill outlawing all tobacco use, including electronic cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, wherever an organized game of baseball is played in California is making its way through the Assembly.”
That last paragraph, by the way, is a masterpiece of misdirection. 1) Targeting chewing tobacco has nothing do with “anti-smoking efforts.” And, 2) electronic cigarettes have nothing to do with “tobacco use.”
San Francisco’s new ordinance is revealing. It shows that public tobacco bans, increasingly, have nothing to do with protecting non-smokers, but rather coercing smokers, dippers, and vapers (vapists?) into changing their habits. That may be a worthy aim of the government, but a modicum of honesty on the part of the anti-tobacco movement would be appreciated. The smoke has cleared, in more ways than one.