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Regulation Nation - Smoking Outlawed in Private Residences

Posted by Matthew J. Hornsby on October 17, 2012 at 4:25 PM

          How far should government regulation go in our lives? Over the course of my lifetime, government regulations on the aspects of our everyday lives have gone from being more or less non-existent to being - arguably – overdone. Wearing seatbelts is mandatory. Nutritional data must be placed on all packaged foods. It seems like construction permits are required by municipalities for anything more complicated than Windexing a window. Of course, some of these regulations are great. They protect individuals from being harmed by other people.

          One of the latest trends in regulations (although it’s actually been going on for decades) is the prohibition against smoking in public places. Restaurants, hotels, retail stores, etc. are typically places where smoking is prohibited by ordinances. Recently, the city of San Rafael, CA banned smoking in private residences that have multiple units within them. My understanding of the law is that free-standing, single-family houses are not subject to the law. However, apartments, condominiums, duplexes, and any other living arrangement that utilizes “shared walls” are subject to the restriction. For the record, I am a non-smoker. Smoking just doesn’t appeal to me, and I generally like the fact that I can go to a restaurant without smelling cigarette smoke. If I were to be totally honest, philosophically speaking, I do have concerns over a privately owned restaurant not having the say so on whether smoking will be allowed by private citizens within its premises. However, I am able to rectify that with the fact that the restaurant (or hotel or retail store), while private property, is open to the public, and thus, perhaps, subjects itself to such regulation. I don’t know that I totally agree with that idea, but I can understand it.

          However, I cannot understand how a private residence can be subject to such restrictions. Nothing about a condominium or duplex is open to the public, even if there are “shared walls.” Certainly, there may be instances where the ventilation between two units causes problems with smoke, but isn’t that just the nature of having neighbors? Should we also ban the cooking of ethnic food in units with “shared walls” and “shared ventilation” systems? Unless and until the government decides to completely ban the smoking of cigarettes (which is unlikely due to the revenue gained from cigarette taxes, not to mention constitutional issues), it seems unfair and hypocritical to whittle away at the locations that a person can smoke. After all, a man’s home is his castle, even if the castle walls are shared by another king.

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