In 1964, the US Surgeon General declared smoking a public health hazard. Since then, the government has been forced to balance the conflicting right to smoke with the right to breathe clean, healthy air. As a result, laws have been enacted prohibiting smoking in public places. California led the way in the fight for clean air when it banned smoking in bars and other public places. At the time, people decried the action, claiming it would put bars and restaurants out of business. Of course, it did just the opposite. It allowed the nonsmoking majority of Californians to go out and enjoy smoke-free dining and drinking. Today, these establishments flourish, free from smoke.
In 2003, Solana Beach became the first US city to ban smoking at the beach. In 2011, Laguna Woods became the first Orange County city to prohibit smoking on balconies and patios. Last year, Laguna Beach became the first Orange County city to make the entire city smoke free, except for private homes and cars. Today, more than 70 California cities and counties have kicked butts.
As of January, 2018, Dana Point joined the trend. Smoking is now prohibited in all Dana Point’s public places, whether publicly or privately owned. Sidewalks, streets, alleyways, and parking lots are all smoke free, in addition to parks, indoor spaces and places of employment. Where can a smoker light up? Smoking is permitted in a private residence or a car.
Change is never easy and the smoking ban is no exception, even with 75% resident support. The cry against it? “I have rights” and “how can this even be enforced?” Public spaces belong to everyone, smokers and nonsmokers alike. Yes, smokers have the right to smoke but nonsmokers have a right to breathe air free from carcinogens when venturing outside. The conflicting rights have been weighed and the balance tips in favor of a healthy environment. The right to smoke has not been banned, but it has been restricted to only private spaces controlled by the smoker. Smoking is allowed in private residences and automobiles, unless someone under 17 is a passenger in which case state law prohibits smoking in the vehicle.
Acceptance comes through education and progressive enforcement. There was a time when no one wore seat belts, bike helmets or motorcycle helmets. Cars occupied only by the driver were not restricted to certain freeway lanes. When laws were enacted mandating these things, they too were met with the inevitable initial resistance which melted away over time with a campaign of public service announcements and intermittent enforcement. Today, seat belts, helmets and car pools lanes have gained universal acceptance.
Using these time-honored techniques, a smoke free Dana Point will become the way life is.