The California Assembly voted to pass a measure that would ban all smoking – including e-cigarettes and medical marijuana – on all state university and community campuses. The rule will potentially apply to the privacy of one’s dorm room, as well.
To anti-smoking activists, the measure can be interpreted as a victory for cleaner lungs. For those who require marijuana for medical reasons, and for those trying to quit cigarettes through the use of e-cigarettes, the bill could indicate the need to find new housing.
The question of an outright ban is not nearly as black and white as some of the anti-smoking activists sometimes make it out to be. While the vast majority of individuals want to see further reductions in smoking – even tighter regulations in smoking – it’s important to weigh the interests of civil liberties.
That doesn’t always come easy. For example, San Diego State University, which has a smoking ban, responds to a civil liberties question in its FAQ section with an almost sarcastic response: the school states that no right to smoke or use tobacco under the Constitution exists, tobacco users are not a protected class under the Equal Protection Clause or the Due Process Clause, and thus smoking can be restricted. Such a response does not exactly advance a nuanced and productive dialogue where millions of people smoke daily. Moreover, we live in an era where, paradoxically, marijuana smoking is increasingly seen as a legal “right” in the eyes of many people who are in college and who will be subject to the ban, including those who require it medically.
Moreover, such a response is quite likely to be seen as “Big Brother” in action in the eyes of many free-thinking 18-22 years old’s who are likely to suffer the effects of California’s campus smoking ban.
Logic Against the Ban
While the government has the authority to ban smoking, just as they have the power to ban alcoholic (as they did federally during the prohibition era), some argue that these are unjustified. Regulating personal conduct can be justified on only a few grounds, opponents argue, and the smoking ban does not appear to meet these.
- For example, the Harm Principle, which states that a law will be justified if they prevent people from causing harm to others, include the vast majority of the criminal laws.
- Morality Laws prevent people from engaging in conduct deemed offensive – typically sex, obscenity, and so-called “values laws.”
- Paternalism laws, which prevent people from engaging in activities that could cause harm to themselves. Strict libertarians typically hate paternalistic laws.
While it may seem tempting to label smoking bans as “Harm Principle” laws, opponents of the bill are quick to note that e-cigarettes cause no harm to the public at large. Additionally, banning hookahs – which contains no tobacco or nicotine – are unrelated to cigarettes except for the presence of smoke.
The Assembly is not limiting its ban on tobacco products, or to products that cause second-hand smoke, or even to nicotine-based products. In passing this bill, therefore, the Assembly seeks to further stigmatize smoking and smoking-related activities, by banning it from the campus.
How a San Diego Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help
If you have questions about your civil liberties or feel that your rights have been infringed, contact a San Diego criminal defense lawyer today for a free consultation. The attorneys at McElfresh Law have the experience needed to defend your rights and advocate for clients throughout all of San Diego and Southern California. Call us today at (858) 756-7107.