You Agree to Stop Smoking, and We Agree Not to Fine You


The city of Belmont, California, is moving ahead with an ordinance that would prohibit residents from smoking at home. In your face, Clean Air Calabassas!

On the bright side, the smoking ban won't apply to people who live in detached, single-family homes, and the city council seems to be leaning toward allowing smoking in some outdoor locations, though not on bar or restaurant patios, in ATM lines, at bus stops, or near building entrances. Ban backers insist that police will not be raiding the apartments and condominiums of illicit smokers—unless someone complains:

The council said it wants enforcement of the smoking law to be complaint-driven, much like a noise ordinance.

In other words, a neighbor of a smoker in an apartment complex could contact authorities if she was bothered by the smoke drifting into her unit, and police or code enforcement officers would respond and either mediate an agreement or issue a citation.

"It's not that you shouldn't smoke, it's that you shouldn't bother someone with your smoke," said Council Member Dave Warden, perhaps the most vehement anti-smoking voice on the council. "If someone is enjoying a cigarette wherever they are and not bothering anybody, they should be allowed to do that."

The fair-minded Warden also has taken a stand against banning smoking in cars, which he says could be unfair to motorists who are driving through Belmont, unaware of the city's zero tolerance policy on secondhand smoke. But I'm not sure I understand how police will "mediate an agreement" between a resident who has no right to smoke in his own home and a neighbor who insists that he stop smoking.