The County Board of Supervisors wants to ban smoking around public and commercial buildings. What have they been smoking?

The ordinance, which still has to pass one more hearing, would make it illegal to smoke within 20 feet of any building where people work. In addition to convents and orphanages, this would affect all coffee shops, restaurants and bars in the unincorporated parts of Santa Barbara County. Downtown bars will not be affected, nor will any business within the proposed city of Goleta, should it come into existence. This leaves Isla Vista, North County and some cows.

Isla Vista business owners will be hit the hardest. The law makes provisions for smoking patios – so long as they are not near entrances, open windows or other businesses. That does not leave a lot of places to smoke in I.V. It’s impossible for local hangouts like Java Jones and Sam’s To Go to accommodate the new law; they don’t have the space.

Coffee shops and outdoor cafes depend on smokers for a large part of their business. Cigarette smokers are excellent customers – they hang out longer, order more drinks and, if the place sells them, buy cigarettes.

Cigarettes and smoking are still legal. Smokers, though, are being segregated – it’s already illegal to smoke inside nearly every workplace. But if this passes, smokers won’t be allowed to sit on Pardall Road while enjoying a cup of coffee and a personal and legal – if cancerous – habit.

The County’s justification sounds good but smells worse than a damp ashtray. Tobacco smoke is cancerous and undeniably awful for a smoker taking concentrated drags of the stuff. But second-hand smoke is trickier to pin down. How carcinogenic the smoke is depends on how concentrated the smoke is and the level of exposure. It’s impossible to determine how many people die from indoor second-hand smoke, let alone if it has any effects outside. Yet the county claims second-hand smoke kills 53,000 nonsmokers every year.

“There are three kinds of lies,” Mark Twain said. “Lies, damned lies and statistics.”

On the basis of evidence that ranges from spurious to nonexistent, the county has come up with a plan that will hurt local businesses and harass law-abiding citizens. The price tag? Sixteen thousand, three hundred and five dollars.

That’s money not being spent on streetlights, road repairs, park maintenance or schools – all things that desperately need money in unincorporated areas. To get an idea of what that money means, suppose Isla Vista Elementary wanted to buy textbooks costing $50. For $16,300 they could get 326 new textbooks.

Instead, the supes want to keep people from smoking outside of coffee shops.

There is a chance to stop this imbecilic idea. The ordinance requires final approval at the County Board of Supervisors’ November 20 meeting. Let them know how you feel about it.

You could send smoke signals, even.