About a month ago, I took up a new habit: smoking. I don’t like it – as a matter of fact, I hate it – but I can’t seem to quit, because my smoking is all secondhand. Until a month ago, avoiding smoke was easy – virtually effortless. Most places are either partially or entirely non-smoking, and the few that aren’t usually have adequate ventilation, at least in my experience. Washington state voters, however, seeing something that wasn’t broke, decided to fix it. To protect people from the scourge of secondhand smoke, they’ve outlawed all smoking
in all businesses, and even outdoor smoking within 25 feet of doors, windows, or vents. Restaurants, offices, bars, cigar shops – they’re all smoke-free now. And since windows, vents, and doors are often within 50 feet of each other in retail districts, in certain parts of cities it’s impossible for a smoker to legally light up.
The cost of complying with no-smoking areas has gone up, with the predictable result that compliance has gone down. Waiting for a ride outside Seattle’s airport, within arm’s reach of a no-smoking sign, I was engulfed in the fumes from half a dozen smokers. Entering a convenience store, I’ve had to wade through similar clouds. I didn’t see this when legal smoking areas were reasonably accessible.
I don’t want to overstate my case here – the clouds are still the exception rather than the rule, and in any case, breathing a bit of secondhand smoke isn’t going to kill me anymore than buying a lottery ticket is going to make me rich. I just wonder if the 64% of Washington voters who are clearly unacquainted with human nature find it shocking that smokers, given the choice to ignore the law or drastically curtail their smoking, sometimes choose to ignore the law.