The board of supervisors just handed Santa Barbara County residents a 20-foot length of hose and told them to go blow smoke up their butts.
The ordinance, which affects all unincorporated areas in Santa Barbara – thanks, Goleta Now! – states that smokers must be at least 20 feet from any business or face the wrath of a hefty fine, ranging from $100 to $500, depending on previous offenses. The ordinance will be officially adopted on Dec. 4 and will go into effect March of next year.
However, don’t expect to see your friendly neighborhood patrolman walking around with a measuring tape. The enforcement is mainly up to citizens, which makes the regulation as superfluous as a third nipple.
And by making it illegal to smoke within 20 feet of a business, people now have another excuse to be rude and uncivil towards each other.
Normally, two rational, civil adults would be able to handle a conflict of interest such as cigarette smoke. A nonsmoker bothered by the man smoking next to him would only have to lean over and politely ask the smoker to put his cigarette out. The smoker, being a reasonable man as well, would then comply with the request since he probably has a pack of 19 more coffin nails in his pocket. It’s an exchange that hardly seems to need government regulation.
It’s amazing what being decent will get you.
The ordinance is one of two things: an insulting slap on the wrist from a government that thinks we’re too petty to handle our own conflict of interests, no matter how minor; or, more likely, it’s a good intention from a group of people who like to think they know what’s best. Perhaps it’s both.
What will happen now is people will start quoting the supervisors’ decision with a holier-than-thou timbre, not because they’re so much bothered by the smoke, but because of the fact that it’s against the law. I wouldn’t be surprised if the majority of requests by the offended start with, “Excuse me, but that’s not legal.”
Granted, there will always be those bastards who’ll be rude and will refuse to stop smoking, but will civilian-enforced legislation really turn them into docile, compliant wankers?
The ordinance will do other things as well. It requires tobacco licensing, requiring shopkeepers to obtain a license to sell tobacco products. It will reduce the amount of tobacco sold to minors – which I have to admit is a worthy cause. Nasty letters, fines and license suspensions await violators, but how we’ll catch them remains sketchy.
The ordinance is also supposed to create a comprehensive list of all shops that sell tobacco. However, anyone could do this with just a phone book, a highlighter and about 16 hours – with smoking breaks.
The majority of us went through kindergarten, where we learned to share and play nice. If we can just remember how Mrs. Lee told us to be kind and respectful to each other during play time, then we’ll all be okay. I promise.
Daily Nexus columnist Steven Ruszczycky must remain 20 feet away from the other children at all times. His column appears every Tuesday.