California is already among the states least tolerant of smoking, having banned the vice in restaurants, bars, most workplaces, and cars with children. Now, in at least one San Francisco suburb, some smokers will no longer be able to light up in their own homes. Here, a guide to the toughest ban on smoking yet and its chances of catching on.
In their own homes? Really?
In the San Francisco suburb of San Rafael, a township of about 57,000 people, the city council voted unanimously for a smoking ban in all homes that have shared walls, including multifamily units, condos, and duplexes. And the ban doesn't stop there. Smoking is now prohibited on downtown sidewalks as well as in recreation areas such as parks, playgrounds and sports fields.
Is San Rafael the first township to enact such a ban?
Yes and no. California is actually the only state so far that allows local jurisdictions to ban smoking in homes. At least eight other California municipalities have prohibited smoking in homes, but the rule is applied only to new construction or a certain percentage of units within housing complexes. San Rafael's ordinance, however, applies to all multi-family structures, new or old, rented or owned.
How have residents reacted?
They're mostly supportive. Only two people came out to publicly oppose the ban when it was enacted on Oct. 15. "This proposed smoking ban actually intends to punish people for what they do in their own homes," citizen Thomas Ruppenthal told the council. "I really feel this is tyranny." The council was unswayed.
Could the ban spread to other cities?
That remains to be seen. Supporters say they hope the trailblazing ban will catch on. "We think it will set the tone for other cities," says San Rafael Mayor Gary Phillips. The ordinance is significant, says Stanford University professor Robert Procter, because it reflects a growing national anti-smoking trend and could mark a new turning point. "Smoking peaked in 1981 with 630 billion cigarettes sold in the United States," he said. "Now it's down to 350 billion. And that number will keep on going down until smoking is a distant memory."