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.

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  1. On Monday all smoking will be banned in Irish pubs, restaurants and workplaces.

  2. Is drinking next?

  3. I also think in this case the smokers hurt their own cause beacuse butts are the single most common piece of litter on beaches. People sure won’t miss seeing the little used filters in the sand.

  4. erf,

    Good point. I’m against smoking bans on private property (restaurants, businesses), but what irks me about cigarette smokers is their utter disregard for where they toss their butts. Very few give a second thought to tossing it out the car window or flipping it into the grass or sand. They would probably gain a few allies to their hopeless cause if they weren’t such littering pigs.

  5. I agree. Smokers are horrendous litter bugs. I see it all the time and it really pisses me off. Whenever I’m on the road and I see some car tossing a cig out the window, I wish there was a way to report them and have them fined.

  6. How difficult is it to put the butt in an ashtray and empty the ashtray once in a while?
    Any smokers out there who would care to weigh in on this one?

  7. Just yesterday, I was having a cigarette outside my workplace (greater than the mandated 50 ft away from the building, I might add). When I finished it, I dropped it on the ground, put it out with my foot, then picked up the butt and carried it to the nearest trash can. At least two people looked at me as though I’d grown a second head for doing this. And they weren’t smoking.

    It seems that littering is just what is expected of smokers. That’s too bad. I wonder if tobacco companies would be allowed to produce ads where they encourage smokers to deposit their butts in a propoer recepticle, or if that wouldn’t be a sufficently anti-smoking message for them to get around the restrictions on advertising?

  8. Considering that piers and beaches are generally public land, I don’t see this as being really clear-cut. I mean, people don’t have a RIGHT to a smoke-free environment, but people don’t have a RIGHT to smoke wherever you want either — it’s all about whose preferences you want to support, and if smokers have been abusing their privileges, then it’s acceptable to go the other way and support the preference of people who support smoke-free beaches;

  9. My husband and I, both smokers, recently spent a week in San Diego. We did not leave a single cigarette butt on the ground in Sea World, the zoo, or the wild animal park. When there wasn’t a trashcan nearby, I carried my butts until I found one.

  10. When I used to smoke, I had a pretty little jeweled “purse ashtray” to hold my butts; it held about three before it had to be emptied.

    As a born-again non-smoker I guess I have the right to develop a superiority complex, but I choose to waive that right. I think the majority of the Non-Smoking militants are not motivated by public health but by schadenfreude, the sneaky misanthropic little happiness that comes from the misfortune of others. Non-smokers get to be nasty, domineering little bitches, AND they get to lie to themselves and say, “I’m not doing this because I like to impose my will on others; I’m doing it (Pick one) for the children/ in the interests of public safety/ to defend my rights as an American/ because I’m just plain better than the non-smokers.”

  11. Littering is a completely different action from smoking. Are we talking about litter or smoke here?

    I have to say that I’m not sure about this one. A majority may approve of a ban, but I don’t see that as trumping the desire of smokers in public spaces. What if the majority desired to outlaw kite flying or kissing or children playing from the beaches? With the amount of space and air available, it’s not an argument of second hand smoke or other detrimental side effects. Why should the majority be allowed to control public space in this manner? Aren’t we all forced to contribute to the maintenance of such spaces? Shouldn’t we all be able to use them in any manner we wish if we’re not causing others harm?

  12. ” wonder if tobacco companies would be allowed to produce ads where they encourage smokers to deposit their butts in a propoer recepticle”

    They’re already working on that. “Mr. Butts” is a 6′ tall animated cigarette butt (also available in poster, balloon, and plastic figurine form). The cartoon features him singing his “Take me to the can” song. It’s really quite catchy.

  13. your ideology is inconsistent. as i understand libertarian principles, if the majority votes to ban smoking on public land, so it goes. if the minority wants different rules, they should buy their own, non-public land, and enact their rules there.

    (for the sake of argument, let’s overlook the fact that in a pure libertarian ideology the concept of “public land” ceases to exist)

  14. Rich-
    I am not a “pure libertarian,” but I must ask you: are you saying that Lib. ideology mandates that the majority can impose its will on the minority? I always thought it was more along the lines of “You leave me alone and I’ll return the favor.”

  15. I’m generally against outdoor smoking bans, but I’ve been to too many beaches that are filled with those damned filters. It’s just repulsive.

    I’d actually be OK with littering fines or only unfiltered cigs.

  16. Glenn-
    Exactly! Ban littering, not smoking. Better yet, enforce the littering laws already on the books. Sheesh. I have half a mind to start smoking again, purely as an act of civil disobedience.

  17. Way back when smokers were in the majority, they usually made reasonable accomodations to non-smokers. When the tales were turned, not even when it would benefit them.
    It is child’s play to design an exhaust system for a room so as to keep the smoke in. Instead, the asshat moralists push the smokers outside, then make them stay 20 feet away, then make them hide behind a tree, then….
    Give the smokers a room and they will stay therein.
    And keep your pious ass out.

  18. Banning smoking to get rid of the litter? Why not just enforce the damn littering laws? Heck, I’d even support it if they made litter laws more expensive for cigarette butts because it’s so common. That’s like syaing drug laws are important to keep people from driving under the influence, even though those laws already exist.

    Ok, so I’m a smoker, but I put my butts out in my car’s ashtray and use the sand/metal ashtrays in public places when I see them. The only litter I produce is ash (not litter) or tobacco leavins from when I squeeze out the last bit of burning ‘baccy so I can trow the butt away and not start a trash can fire if there isn’t an ashtray.

    I guess barbeque smoke is nice and healthy while tobacco smoke is EVIL.

    Jen, you know you started smoking and then quit just for the right to be a domineering, self-righteous bitch. I can tell by your posts. 🙂 Oh well, I’d rather be criticized by someone who knows what they’re talking about than by someone who just heard from someone they know.

  19. Mo-
    I don’t need cigarettes to be self-righteous. I already rock in oh, so many ways.

  20. With the amount of space and air available, it’s not an argument of second hand smoke or other detrimental side effects. Why should the majority be allowed to control public space in this manner? Aren’t we all forced to contribute to the maintenance of such spaces? Shouldn’t we all be able to use them in any manner we wish if we’re not causing others harm?

    I think this hits the nail on the head. Sure, it’s public land, so the gov’t has authority there, but the gov’t should make public land as accessible as possible to as many people as possible for as many uses as possible, provided that nobody’s use of that land infringes anybody else’s general right to be left alone.

  21. Majority rule can be a form of tyranny itself. Correct, in a libertarian society, public land wouldn’t be much of a consideration. As it is, we do have to decide how to maintain public space. Which is better: allowing the majority decide the solutions even when those solutions come at the expense of the minority, or allowing peaceful people to behave as they wish as long as they don’t harm others? Granted, some of the decisions of the majority may be well-informed and judicious, but there is no guarantee that they will be. Why not back out of the issue altogether and let the individual make as many decisions as is possible? Shouldn’t there be a limit to what we allow democracy to control?

  22. Yet another reason why ever more Left-Coasters are crying, “Eastward Ho!”

  23. I suspect you won’t see much let-up in butts on the beaches. I believe that most of them are carried to the sea by storm drains. Once there, they freely wash up on shore.

  24. Let me guess, the people in favor of the smoking ban are SUV dirving Yuppies….so much for clean air!

  25. this is a lost cause. tobacco will be banned. on the campus of the school I go to the “anti-smoking organization” is paid by federal HHS money to create smoke free areas. the people that run it are being paid to essentially create law on campus. There was a ton of money disbursed from the settlements. there are many brain dead individuals who are happy to indoctrinate and criticize and even more so when they are getting a paycheck.

    when asked about their facts they just sort of give you a blank look and say smoking is bad.

    I wonder if the antismoking ‘activists’ behind this were funded by federal monies.

  26. > I think the majority of the Non-Smoking
    > militants are not motivated by public health
    > but by schadenfreude

    Jennifer, that is absolutely right. I also think “secondhand smoke” is a bogus claim used to cover up for this. And as a smoker with my own superiority complex :-), I can’t stand to see other smokers littering; but I think that’s more due to a general decline in manners and civility. After all, I see people tossing garbage onto the street all the time.

  27. Mo brings up a great point with his comment about barbecueing. We all read the story the other day about Port Orange, FL, banning smoking in the parks. BBQ’ing on little hibachis is popular in parks. I wonder if that is banned in Port Orange.

  28. I mentioned that because recently, I got yelled at for smoking in an underground parking structure on my way to my car. The person said, “There’s no ventilation in here, don’t you know how dangerous cigarette smoke is?” I responded, “I dunno, a half to three-quarters as dangerous as car exhaust?”

  29. “Mind if I smoke?” used to be the norm in a more civilized age. Anti-smoking harpies have forced smokers underground and made them defensive. I used to enjoy a cigar at a ballgame. Now I would never dream of it, legal or not. It’s easy enough for me to save it for later. No worries.

    Don’t laugh at the barbeque bans – they’re coming, and in some places they’re already here.

    I’ve said it before, but America is increasingly becoming a place where the biggest gang wins, right or wrong. Anti-smoking crusades are but one example.

  30. > Yet another reason why ever more Left-Coasters
    > are crying, “Eastward Ho!”

    Yes, it really is a different culture over there. I never imagined that when I moved to San Francisco seven years ago that roughly half the population would glare at me for smoking, outside, in wide open areas. I returned to the east coast eleven months later (not specifically for that reason; but the attitude that causes people to behave like that sure played a part).

  31. If you smoke unfiltered cigarettes, you don’t leave cigarette butts. They burn away to ash and a little tar spot.

  32. > I wish there was a way to report them and have them fined. How difficult is it to put the butt in an ashtray and empty the ashtray once in a while?

  33. I know a lot of you have been wondering whether or not I have a billboard in Santa Monica ready to go. (Well, at least, one of you may have been wondering…subconsciously.)

    For the reasons below, the answer is no.

    1. I listened to the council meeting via NPR when they did their conferring, and none of the city council people (that I heard) invoked the we-gotta-protect-the-children thing. There were two main justifications for the ban. One being litter (There’s already a law against that.) The second being that there are already too many people with cancer. (Yes, I distinctly remember hearing one of the council’s men actually say that.)

    2. It happened in the People’s Republic of Santa Monica. This means that the named city council member might actually vote to support me rather than sue me to take down a sign that says, “Don’t vote for so-and-so. He’s a fucking idiot!” The idea is to get a legal challenge on my political speech.

    3. I wasn’t at the City Council Meeting to try to reason with them first.

  34. I’m starting a fund-raiser to get enough money to buy big pouches of Red Man for every Santa Monica smoker. Those holier-than-thou health assholes will LONG for the days of cigarette butts, when they have to walk through puddles of tobacco spit.

    Paraphrase of Fran Lebowitz: “It used to be that people believed in honor, justice, truth, and helping their fellow man. Now they believe in not smoking.”

    How fucking narcissistic must you be, to think that improving your own personal health somehow translates into civic virtue? Hell, that goes beyond narcissism straight into solipsism.

  35. I’m starting a fund-raiser to get enough money to buy big pouches of Red Man for every Santa Monica smoker.

    Is this before or after you buy beer for every US soldier, sailor, marine, and airman under the age of 21?

  36. The Santa Monica pier is one of the filthiest places on the planet and it isn?t because of rude smokers dumping their butts with abandon. Further, there are far less butts on the beach than there are soda cans, food wrappers, baby diapers, and broken plastic (non-biodegradable) beach toys left behind by toddlers after a day in the sun. The bathrooms aren?t fit for use (hint: wear your effen shoes). IMO, The People?s Republic of Santa Monica has a Tragedy of the Commons beach problem that is far out of proportion to the smoking population.

    Second point is that yes, some smokers are careless with how they dispose of their butts (litterbugs, to be kind) but they are no worse than the assholes who dump their McDonalds shit all over the city streets and freeway onramps so let?s be fair and spread the blame for littering all around.

    Third, the smokers I know do not litter. My smoking friends refuse to smoke in my home, even when invited to do so on cold and windy nights, they still step outside. If an ashtray isn?t nearby they field strip their butts, pocket the litter, and never leave a mess.

    So let’s paint this with a narrower brush, shall we?

  37. Arguing about smoking regulations on public land is like arguing about how to run public schools; a principled libertarian stand is elusive. If I owned the beach, I’d probably allow smoking there… unless too many people complained or the litter problem was too expensive to remedy by trying to fine litterers. Since we have all this public land out there, I don’t know that there’s a better solution than allowing local elected officials make decisions about what can and can’t be done there. I mean, I’d ~like~ to impose my will here… but that’s even more inconsistent with libertarian priciples, isn’t it?

    If I really cared about the issue, the best I could do would be to try to convince the city council to do what I think is right… and to vote for those who agree with me. But if I lose the battle… oh well, my options are exhausted.

  38. Jennifer-

    My bad.

  39. Jennifer the super macho smoking Nazi’s are mostly absent because this is (for the most part) a small (L) libertarian blog and I doubt that much of what is discussed here interests them.

    Although generally most people think of libertarians when they think of poor people starving in the streets, most of us really are pretty tolerant and kind.

  40. > Maybe all of the smokers just need to move here to North Carolina. Smoking is almost a duty of home state pride. I’d like to see anyone try and ban it here.

  41. TWC-
    Actually, this is the only comment page I ever frequent; the anti-smokers I’ve met were all on this post. Enough of them to add a huge dose of irony to the name of this site, I might add. Of course, this site also has a lot of posters who seem to think that as long as the government is not actually shoving people into mass graves we have no reason to complain.

    2.50 a pack may seem like a lot of money compared to what it used to be where you are (I know; I grew up in Virginia, another tobacco-friendly state) but up here in New England a single pack now goes for over five bucks. And it is technically illegal to buy cheap tax-free smokes on Indian reservations; if you do you are supposed to fork over the difference to the state.

    And, finally, Thoreau-
    You are NOT forgiven, and here is your punishment: “Ann Coulter in transparent lace.”

  42. Jennifer: Please, oh god, please keep punishing thoreau. Not for his pain, but my pleasure.

    kwais: The libertarian idea is that some person or group would own each parcel of land and via property rights, have control over whatever happened on that parcel. There would be no state or government to compel people to support a property, like a pier, while depriving them of their free use of it. If activity on one parcel harmed another parcel, the compensation would be mediated by a third party. Without demonstrable harm, like on a windy pier, no compensation is justified.

    From Mo and dj: I love the idea of being a cigarette burner. Smoking is banned, but what about tobacco-scented incense in handy paper-wrapped sticks, twenty to a pack? I would like to control the aroma of my immediate environment. Actually, some governments have banned cologne in public offices. Smegma is acceptable, lavender is not.

    I have the ultimate superiority complex of being an occasional smoker. Ever try lighting a djarum in a marlboro crowd? Suddenly you hear of allergies you never knew existed, and you’re asked to put it out “for health/comfort reasons”.

    Butt littering, all littering irritates me. It seems crassly inconsiderate. I would like to pull up and shit in their car window, but since I’m not the Fall Guy or a contortionist, I’ll have to settle for fantasizing about shooting them.

    Finally, cigarettes, to me taste much better secondhand from another’s lips. Perhaps not as good as plain lips, but quite palatable.

  43. Jennifer-

    That image reminds me of Gozer the Traveler. She was in some sort of tight, transparent outfit, but she was pure evil.


  44. “She taisted lahk cigahrettes!”

  45. Hey, just wanna say thanks to whoever thought of me and conjured me up. It was really swell of you to help me escape from hell like that. I’ll try to make your death painless as I destroy the world.

  46. I always thought one of the nice things about California beaches was that you could see more butts there. I suppose that will all change after this.

  47. > BTW, how is there no public land in a pure libertarian philosophy? How is that supposed to work?

  48. Maybe all of the smokers just need to move here to North Carolina. Smoking is almost a duty of home state pride. I’d like to see anyone try and ban it here.

  49. Kwais-
    I’ll attempt to answer your question, as a Libertarian outsider: I think the idea of pure Libertarianism is like free-market anarchy; there should be no taxes and no (or almost no) government. Personally, I think it is criminally naive to believe that the majority of people will be good without being required to, but it’s like Communism: it sounds so peachy-keen in theory that until it is instituted in practice and causes mass misery, none of its adherents will admit that the theory is fundamentally opposed to all that is nasty in human nature.

    Thoreau: if you remember correctly, my plan was to buy booze for teenage soldiers ONLY if the draft is re-instated, in hopes that all the young draftees won’t be made into cannon fodder because they’ll all be in jail for drinking alcohol.

    By the way, where are the super-macho anti-smokers on this post? You know, the ones who always make testosterone-drenched comments like “I’ll deal with your smoke in my lungs as soon as you deal with my fist in your face?” They usually make all sort of comments on these smoke-related threads.

  50. One of the more ironic aspects of this legislation is that Santa Monica, being one of the municpalities with the most draconian rent control laws in the country, has one of the highest instances of homelessness in the country. For various reasons, the homeless congregate at and often sleep on the beach.

    My non-scientific observation of the homeless in Santa Monica suggests that a disproportionate number of them smoke (I’ve seen them re-roll already smoked butts.) You see where I’m going with this?

    I don’t think there are any vagrancy laws in the People’s Republic of Santa Monica, or, if there are, they aren’t regularly enforced. It will be facinating to see whether or not the homeless are ticketed, harrassed and jailed for failure to appear becuause of the ordinance.

    Lately the City Council has tried to discourage the homeless from congregating in Santa Monica (They recently tried to stop charities from feeding the homeless in city parks), but having listened to the council meeting on NPR during the vote, I don’t think they thought about the effect this could have on homeless people when they made this stupid little piece of legislation.

  51. Ken-
    In keeping with your comment, I think it would be especially interesting to see what happens if SM has to start jailing large numbers of homeless for crimes against tobacco. Will they rescind the law because they can’t afford to pay for the high inmate population?

    Incidentally, I agree that cities have the right to try and ‘solve’ the homeless problem if they have one, but trying to convince charities to stop giving them food ranks only below shooting them on sight on the Sleaze-o-Meter.

  52. The smoker is the new n****r, yet if it had not been for smokers, we would all be speaking Japanese or German.
    The refusal to allow indoor, properly ventilated refuges for smokers demonstrates that the real purpose is not health but power. The reek of hypocrisy is a stench far worse than tobacco.

  53. > here in New England a single pack now goes for
    > over five bucks

    Hah – try over seven bucks in New York State. When the newsstand in my office building last year started charging over eight dollars, I finally said enough is enough and looked online. Now I pay roughly $1.50 a pack for the same cigs I always smoked, but made in Europe. Of course the state is trying to outlaw that, too.

  54. critic: The libertarian bigshot philosophers have proposed that even those government functions could be performed by contractors.

  55. Jennifer is, I assume, referring to me in her comments, for having put forth the groundbreakingly radical idea that smokers should have to either have my permission or pay a fee in order to use my body parts and internal organs to dispose of their waste products. The punch in the face was just one idea; I’ll take cold, hard cash, too.

    Surely, Jennifer would not propose that I be allowed to spray a can of air freshener into her face at my leisure without having to pay somehow. I’m not sure why the analogous action in reverse should be any different.

  56. Mark

    Yes, many of the “libertarian big shot(s)” say that. While not exactly the anarchists’ position, they seem to be saying that there are no legitimate governmental prerogatives. Private armies? Private police forces? Sounds like 1929 Germany to me.

  57. Well, now that the govnmt has determined that obesity is as big or a bigger health care cost I would be for the banning of Fat Chicks on the beach. We are waiting for a special Fat Section in the restaurants or perhaps making fat people eat outside.

    Dont know how banning fat people indoors will affect WalMart sales. Although they could be serviced in the Lawn and Garden section I guess.

  58. Critic (and anyone else interested), here’s a good article outlining some basics of anarchist ideology. It’s definitely not a “no principles or absolutes” ideology, and I find the logic extremely difficult to refute. Have fun:

  59. jc asks:
    “how is there no public land in a pure libertarian philosophy?”

    Depends on how you define “libertarian.” The anarchist posing as a libertarian holds no principles or absolutes; accordingly his viewpoint on property is that it is both everyone’s and no one’s.

    But the “libertarian” who understands that there are and should be legitimate, limited functions of government – e.g. the police, the military, the courts – whose purpose is to protect the rights of the citizenry, will state that public land is that land, and only that land, on which legitimate governmental functions are performed.

  60. First smoking, what next? Shutting down bars because people drink (and cause others to drink) themselves to death?

  61. I’m a fat chick. How much would the free market pay me to stay off the beach? 😉

  62. Littering provides jobs. It’s good for the economy.

    Whenever I bring my shopping cart back into the store rather than leaving it in the parking lot, I’ve taken away a cart for some worker to go fetch.

    But laws against littering and smoking provide jobs for enforcers. These are generally higher paying jobs. So I guess laws are good for the economy too.

    It’s all too confusing. So fuck the economy.

  63. The libertarian platform for size of government postulates that the only function of said government is to protect me…and protect my property.

    Public land? Yeah. The taxes that you pay the government to maintain a national park that only 2% of the population visits flies in the face of a free market. I’m paying for a service that I’m not getting. What if I just paid $.50 each time I wanted to play frisbee golf down at the local park. If there aren’t enough people paying to maintain the grounds…well, there you go. There shouldn’t be a park there sucking up tax dollars. What about the freeways? I’ve never driven on the 105 freeway, but they still take a chunk out of my paycheck each week to build it and maintain it.

    I’m a fat bald guy who hasn’t had a haircut in 15 years. Should I contribute to the cuts for those who still have hair?

    I’m getting all worked up here…I have to go have a smoke.

    I’m back.

    Further, a basic construct of the Libertarian platform is to do whatever you want…until such point where you harm others. Having others breath my smoke is harmful to them…It’s also harmful to me, but that’s my choice. Not throwing my lit butts out the window of my car at 70 MPH into the face of a lane-splitting motorcyclist is also my choice.

    To conclude this tangental political discussion… You can’t govern a population based on the acts of an individual. Statistics do not apply to individuals…they only apply to populations. “But I don’t litter.” Whatever. The guy who does throws his butt on the beach…the officer rides his mountain bike over to the guy and has a stern talk with the offender. This time the perp gets off with a warning! Nice. Next time…he won’t be so lucky. Yet another efficient use of your tax dollar.

    I remain,

    Holden MaGroin

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