San Francisco: Nanny State Ground Zero

Samantha Fillmore,

The city of San Francisco is dealing with many pressing problems, such as skyrocketing homelessness, a surge in crime and poverty, a tourism industry in free fall, etc. Yet, amidst all of these troubling issues, the City Board of Supervisors is busy playing nanny state, following suit of California politics.

Recently, San Francisco’s City Board of Supervisors voted to advance an invasive piece of legislation that would ban smoking inside private dwellings located in an apartment with three or more units.

The bill, filed on November 12, applies to smoking tobacco, vaping, and cannabis products. Not only would this overreaching legislation apply to private dwellings, but it would also include private patios and balconies, which until recently, were socially acceptable places for one to partake in smoking.

The overall driving factor for this bill is based on the premise that if individuals smoke in their apartments, non-smokers in the building do not have access to, and are not able to breathe clean air.

At its core, the ideals behind this smoking ban are inherently anti-liberty. Individuals are more than capable, and better equipped than lawmakers, to determine what is best for them in their own homes. Furthermore, infringing on one’s ability to smoke, particularly in regards to using vaping and e-cigarettes is counterproductive for tobacco cessation efforts.

Apparently unbeknownst to San Francisco’s bureaucrats, e-cigarettes have emerged as an effective smoking cessation tool, with a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine finding their use to be “twice as effective” as nicotine replacement therapy in helping smokers quit. Since their introduction to the U.S. market in 2007, an estimated three million American adults have used these products to quit combustible cigarettes.

Yet, self-righteous politicians making decisions that affect demographic groups who they are wildly out-of-touch with is par for the course in the Golden State. Just consider California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s phasing-out of gasoline-powered vehicles, which will have a devastating impact on the state’s lower-income population, who cannot afford the costly electric vehicles.

Even more, the bill’s sponsor, Supervisor Norman Yee, stated that a reason for this ban ties into the coronavirus pandemic. According to Yee, with more people working from home due to California’s never-ending lockdowns, more micromanaging of what people do inside their private dwellings is necessary.

This is a nonsensical argument. In reality, Yee and his colleagues have used the pandemic to institute all sorts of freedom-shunning orders. This is just the latest attempt.

And, if smokers cannot smoke in their homes, or on their patios and balconies, where are they to go? Well, it is more than likely that more residents will congregate in the streets to take a smoke break, which would violate the city’s stringent COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders.

According to the bill, residents found violating the ban would first be issued written warnings, but then could potentially face a fine of up to $1,000 for subsequent violations. According to city estimates, about 12 percent of San Francisco adults smoke cigarettes, about 20 percent of adults have used e-cigarettes, and about 60 percent of adults use cannabis. Meanwhile, about half of the city’s residents live in multi-unit buildings that would be subject to the ban.

Does the beleaguered city even have the law enforcement capacities to enforce this outlandish ban? Well, considering that a large portion of San Francisco residents are all-in on defunding the police, I would say it is less than likely.

Perhaps, aside from safeguarding Bay City residents’ health, there is an ulterior motive to this would-be ban.

In what has to be a total coincidence, San Francisco’s budget is facing a whopping $1.5 billion deficit. Is it possible that this bill is just another attempt to raise funds for a city drowning in debt?

Perhaps the City Board of Supervisors should look to reducing city spending, instead of resorting to flippant attempts to raise funds from the city’s smokers, which also doubles as egregious overregulation.

For years, California, and San Francisco in particular, has been ground zero for nanny state regulations. No wonder residents who value their freedoms are leaving the Golden State in droves.

Samantha Fillmore (sfillmore@heartland.orgis a government relations manager at The Heartland Institute

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