Smoke On in California?

A liberty loving person could almost applaud the proposed roll-back of anti-smoking legislation in, of all places, California. The city of Long Beach, CA is considering a bill that would exempt businesses that have the sole purpose of providing a place for tobacco users to smoke, like cigar lounges and hookah bars, from the cities ban on smoking indoors in public spaces. I, however, am not such a person.

I can’t recognize the anomaly as a victory of government recognizing the sovereignty of individual rights and personal choice—it isn’t that at all. It’s simply the mistaken result of one government tool trying to appease a mob that finally grew too large to ignore, and another government tool giving more than they asked for.

“The city banned smoking in enclosed public places in 1994, but the law was rarely enforced until about a year ago, when anti-smoking advocates began demanding that city health officials take action. In an effort to keep their businesses open — and avoid fines of up to $500 for each offense — the owners of the city’s 13 cigar lounges banded together to seek an exemption.

Health advocates were upset when City Councilwoman Tonia Reyes Uranga of the 7th District asked the city attorney to draft language to exempt the lounges.

But even Uranga was surprised when the city attorney came back with a draft amendment that would allow smoking in any establishment created for the sole purpose of smoking tobacco: cigar lounges as well as an additional 36 cigar shops and hookah bars.

In addition to be an accident, the repeal appears to be a temporary victory that will last only until the state-wide ban on smoking in public indoor areas is passed.

“If that happens, we will comply and tell our people, ‘You can’t operate a cigar lounge,’ ” Uranga said.