Thursday, June 19, 2003

New Fines for Smokers

A new bill has passed the State House to fine smokers caught violating the Indoor Clean Air Act. Currently, the law imposes fines on the owner of a bar or restaurant when a complaint is filed. The new version will create fines for individual smokers who light up at an indoor public establishment.

While I am a huge fan of the Indoor Clean Air Act, I think that there are several problems with this mode of enforcement. First off, it will be incredibly difficult to enforce. Is the state planning on employing undercover smoke cops to slap handcuffs on offenders or are they planning on raiding bars SWAT team style? Generally complaints about people violating the Act are made by patrons after they leave a bar or restaurant. It seems unlikely that people will start calling in complaints while they are still at a restaurant and the owner of the establishment will not want to fine their own customers. The owner would probably be more likely to ask a patron to extinguish a cigarette than to call in the cops. Secondly, this does nothing to stop pro-smoking bar owners that allow their customers to violate the act. And lastly, by saying that the current fines are unfair to bar/restaurant owners, we are taking away their duty to help keep the air clean in their own watering holes. It’s really not that hard to keep smoking under control. When the smell of smoke isn’t in the air, it is much easier to detect one person lighting up. The last time that I was in a crowded bar and someone lit a cigarette, you could smell it across the whole room and the bouncer found the offender within a few seconds.

Maybe the fine for people caught smoking indoors should be to eat a pack of cigarettes. That should solve the problem pretty quick.

Kevin, Law Clerk Extraordinaire

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