The disappearing boundaries of cigarette prohibition.

Science, technology, and life.
Sept. 15 2009 11:11 AM

Smoke-Free Planet

The disappearing boundaries of cigarette prohibition.

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Whoa, there. First of all, you don't have to ban smoking on every square inch of park land in order to protect nonsmokers from "the person next to them." You can chalk off spaces where smoking is prohibited. Believe me, I coach kids' soccer games. Last week, some guys who work for the county league showed up to paint new lines on our practice field. If you can paint boundaries for play, you can paint boundaries for smoking. Want to keep smokers 100 yards away from where kids are playing? Draw a line.

But check out Farley's second argument: Kids shouldn't "have to be watching someone smoke." We're no longer talking about breathing even a particle of smoke. We're talking about banning bad habits to prevent cultural contamination.

In that case, can we please ban public lotteries? Because I don't like my kids having to watch people gamble, particularly under the auspices of the state. Gambling is addictive and destructive. I want the tickets out of convenience stores and the results off television.

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Why is a huge outdoor smoking ban justified even in the absence of substantiating medical evidence? Because, as one anti-smoking leader tells the Times, "There is no redeeming value in smoking at beaches or parks." That's the bottom line: Any basis for a ban, no matter how slight, is now sufficient, because the value of smoking is zero.

Once we agree on that, the movement to ban smoking, having conquered the outdoors, can move back indoors, this time without any reference to other people's health. Because the value of smoking is zero in your bathroom, too.

Correction, Sept. 16, 2009: This article originally misidentified the initiative as "Take Care New York 1012." (Return to the corrected sentence.)