San Rafael, CA – It is now illegal to smoke cigarettes in multi-family homes including duplexes and condominiums, thanks to a unanimously-voted smoking ban in the 57,000-populated town of San Rafael.
The San Fransisco suburb’s City Council hopes that the strict ban will inspire similar measures throughout the state of California, and ultimately, the country. Mayor Gary Phillips talked about the impending vote with Reuters, saying: “We are happy to blaze a trail. We’re most happy to be in the forefront of the issue because we think it will greatly benefit our residents and those visiting San Rafael, and we think it will set the tone for other cities as well.”
Stanford University history of science professor Robert Proctor says that he believes there’s a good chance the strict smoking ban will catch elsewhere. “We’re on the downslope of a big curve. Smoking peaked in 1981 with 630 billion cigarettes sold in the United States. Now it’s down to 350 billion. And that number will keep on going down until smoking is a distant memory.”
The strict smoking ban includes restrictions on outdoor dining areas, within entryways of buildings in which smoking is prohibited, at public events, in open-space recreation areas, at service stops (ATM, ticket lines) sidewalks downtown, and 80% of all hotel rooms. There are also a prohibition ordinance regarding smoking waste litter (cigarette butts) citywide. The ins-and-outs of the smoking ban can be found on San Rafael’s website, here.
The smoking ban has not received universal support, despite the unanimous vote. “This proposed smoking ban actually intends to punish people for what they do in their own homes,” Thomas Ruppenthal told the city council. “I really feel this is tyranny.”
Still, NBC News notes that secondhand smoke kills an estimated 50,000 Americans (including 430 infants) a year, and that concentrations of cancer-causing and toxic chemicals might be higher in secondhand smoke than in the fumes that smokers directly inhale, so a strict smoking ban was pretty much inevitable.
So many questions. What do you think of San Rafael’s strict smoking ban? Do you think it will inspire other cities and states to pass similar initiatives across the country? Should they? Sound off!