NY county tries to ban smoking... in your own home

Suffolk County, located on Long Island, is on a self-described mission to be the “most progressive county in the state.” (And since we’re talking about New York, there’s some stiff competition for the title.) With that in mind, county legislators are now considering a new ban on smoking cigarettes and other tobacco products. While it’s already forbidden to smoke in most public places, the new effort would apply to smoking in your own home. If that sounds a bit too intrusive to you, you’re probably not alone. But the author of the bill insists that his reasoning is sound. (CBS New York)

Is one suburban county going too far trying to legislate what residents can and cannot do in the privacy of their own homes?

Hoping to be the most progressive county in the state, Suffolk County is proposing a law that would snuff out secondhand smoke in apartment complexes, condominiums, and multi-family dwellings.

Smoking is already banned in many public places, and near schools and office buildings, but there are no smoke-free laws for apartment buildings, condos and two-family homes.

For the moment, the ban wouldn’t apply to owners of single-family homes. (Apparently, even the excessively woke Suffolk County legislators aren’t ready to go quite that far into full-blown government control of your lives.) As far as apartment complexes go, many of them already ban smoking in rental units, but that’s a decision made by the landlord. Cleaning a unit after a smoker moves out requires more time and expense since walls and ceilings will need to be scrubbed of residual smoke and/or repainted. If you’re the owner of the property, that’s a reasonable limit to place on how your space is used. Whether or not that’s a decision for the county government to make is another question.

The bigger issue comes with applying such restrictions to condominiums and row homes or other multi-family dwellings. Much the same as any single-family home, if you’re the one who paid for and owns the dwelling, what business is it of the government to say what you do inside? The answer provided by the bill’s author, Dr. William Spencer, is that secondhand smoke doesn’t remain behind closed doors. He claims that smoke can creep through “cracks in walls, electrical lines, plumbing, and ventilation systems.” This would allegedly allow it to seep into adjoining dwellings where non-smokers could be affected.

Frankly, if you have gaps surrounding your electrical outlets and water pipes that are large enough to allow smoke to come billowing through, you need to talk to your electrician or plumber, not your county legislator. Similarly, if there are cracks in your walls or ceilings sufficiently large to allow smoke to come through, you either need to call a contractor or move out, because your place should probably be condemned.

The one area I hadn’t considered previously, however, was the question of ventilation systems. Row homes almost always have their own heating and air conditioning systems, so smoke wouldn’t be an issue there. But I suppose condominiums (which are basically just apartments that you buy instead of rent) must have some sort of centralized heating and air. (I’ve never lived in a condo, but it makes sense.) There has to be some sort of cold air return system, so if anyone is smoking in one of the units, the smoke would cycle back down to the heater and be redistributed throughout the building.

Is that sufficient justification to impose a ban? If the voters agree it is then I suppose so. But when it comes to row homes or, more to the point, single-family dwellings, this seems like a far too intrusive push by the nanny state. We all know by this time that smoking is bad for your health and a sufficient amount of secondhand smoke can lead to health issues. If the government believes that it’s truly that much of a threat to the world, perhaps they should just reclassify nicotine as a more closely controlled substance and ban it.

Of course, if they did that they would lose out on all that sweet revenue from tobacco taxes. And we couldn’t have that now, could we?