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COMMENTARY: Bad science guides Novato nannies

Nanny State of the Week:  6a00d8341bf7d953ef019b0040d0c2970b-120wi

By   /   March 27, 2017 / WATCHDOG.ORG

Anti-smoking nannies have pushed their crusade further and further, and in California, they’re increasingly reaching further and further into peoples’ lives. Next up? They’re trying to prohibit smoking inside your own home.

The city of Novato has passed one of the most sweeping anti-smoking ordinances in the country. It prohibits smoking in all restaurants, service areas, public parks, apartment buildings, condo units and more.

In fact, the ordinance is so sweeping that it specifies the two places where smoking is not banned: inside of private cars and in single-family detached homes. Live in an apartment building? You’re out of luck. Own your own condo inside of a complex? Also out of luck. Smoking is prohibited almost everywhere else.

The ban is a natural extension of the extremist logic that has driven other smoking bans in California.

California was the first state to prohibit smoking inside of restaurants and bars, and the city of San Rafael was first to ban smoking inside of commonly-shared homes. This is an increasingly popular kind of regulation, but it’s based on junk science — studies have shown little relationship between second-hand smoke and cancer.

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What’s worse, the Novato regulation prohibits e-cigarettes and vaping products in the same way. E-cigarettes and vaping products are frequently used by smokers to stop smoking, and have been shown to be safer than traditional tobacco products.

This isn’t strictly Novato’s fault: They’re following the misguided suggestions of California’s Tobacco Education and Research Oversight Committee, which advises that e-cigarette products should be prohibited everywhere traditional tobacco products are.

The regulations effectively outlaw smoking for people who aren’t extremely wealthy. As Steven Greenhut at The American Spectator reported:

The law targets lower-income people given that single-family homes are exempt in a city where the median single-home value is around $745,000. It acknowledges no difference between cigarette smoking, which is unquestionably dangerous, and the use of vaping products and other nicotine products that are far less dangerous to users — and have few discernible “externalities” that could inflict harm on others. It’s an affront to property rights since the law dictates the terms of leases and makes no distinction between private and public property.

If you don’t own a single-family home or car and your landlord doesn’t choose to provide a carefully designated smoking area that meets the city’s detailed rules, there is no legal place to use tobacco products in the entire city given that it’s banned virtually everywhere else.

As an additional justification, Novato’s ordinance cites “the failure of tobacco retailers to comply with all tobacco control laws, particularly laws prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to minors,” even though Novato is a remarkably compliant jurisdiction. According to the Food and Drug Administration’s random compliance checks, Novato has had only one violation in the last five years — a 98.2 percent compliance rate, according to the FDA’s database.