Smoke on the Water


Santa Monica is about to ban smokers from its pier and beaches. Sadly, the only surprising thing about the ban is that the city council vote was not unanimous. "There are wonderful breezes and a lot of space for everyone," said one of the two dissenters. "For me, it's more of a civil liberties issue. Whose rights are we protecting, and whose are we taking away?"

Many people seem to consider this sort of law more objectionable than bans on smoking in bars and restaurants, since outside there's plenty of air to go around and secondhand smoke is not much of an issue (especially on a breezy pier or beach). But at least this is actually public property, as opposed to a privately owned "public place." If a majority of the owners (i.e., taxpayers) want to ban smoking on their property, that seems more legitimate to me than imposing a ban on private property against the owner's wishes.

Still, the interests of taxpayers who smoke should be taken into account, even if they represent a minority of the owners. They ought to be accommodated when doing so does not impose much of a burden on their fellow owners, as certainly seems to be the case with a guy who wants to light up while fishing off the pier.