Wednesday, May 02, 2007

It's not my job to enforce the smoking ordinance.

Yesterday, Arizona officially became 'smoke free' in most public buildings (except for tobacco shops, private veterans or fraternal organizations, and some bars and restaurants with outdoor patios where smoking will be permitted.) By law, the ordinance does not extend onto reservations (so likely some reservations will do what cities around Tempe did when it passed a similar ordinance and become a haven for smoker-friendly bars and restaurants.)

The proposition to do this was passed by the voters with more than 70% of the vote back in November, so businesses have had half a year to prepare. I do understand that businesses don't like being forced to do something that might adversely affect their business (as the Tempe ordinance did in fact put some Tempe businesses out of business, so clearly bars and restaurants near a reservation will have to sweat things out) but the half a year gave them time to in most cases make provisions, such as remodeling to create a sealed off outdoor patio if smokers are a major part of their clientele.

For the most part the first day seemed to have gone well, with a few isolated problems (including a bar manager and patrons who openly flouted the law in an act of civil disobedience)

So I was reading the article on it in today's Arizona Republic linked here when I stopped at the following line:

"The people who think they are going to get away with it are nuts," [state health director Will] Humble said. "The reality is that just about every non-smoker who goes out in public is one of our inspectors."

There, I have a problem. It's true that I don't smoke and have no desire to be around it, and as such welcome the new law. However, I'm not a cop, and I'm not going to become part of the 'smoke police.' As long as somebody isn't being obnoxious about it, if I see an addict getting their drug fix then I'm just not inclined to go call the cops. They may need treatment, and if I know them well enough I may suggest it, but as a non-smoker I'm just not going to flip a gasket if someone lights a cigarette. And I certainly don't want Mr. Humble telling me that I'm "one of his inspectors." This has a vaguely sinister feel to it, reminiscent of societies like the former East Germany or Saddam Hussein's Iraq when people were encouraged to call the authorities to report even the smallest violation of the most trivial rule. That sort of thing led to a lot of mistrust and division within society, when a person couldn't even trust their own next door neighbor or family members, knowing that they might be an agent of the secret police.

Smokers are addicts who have a substance abuse problem. But they aren't evil people, or the enemy, and we shouldn't be treating them like they are.

By the way, has it hit anyone that apparently the state is now more worried about people smoking cigarettes than they are about people smoking marijuana? Granted, I think we should legalize pot for those who use it, but it is an interesting irony that if someone smoked a cigarette in public there is a hotline in place to report it and the police would be right there to fine whoever owns the property, but not if they smoked a joint.

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