James Baker lives in Rocklin. His two kids have asthma.
So he asked his neighbors to refrain from smoking outside on their own property when his kids were playing outside. Some complied with his request, others didn’t.
Baker decided there ought to be a law. So he did what any red-blooded American does that wants the government to solve all of their problems - he asked the Rocklin City Council to consider adopting an ordinance that prohibits folks from smoking outside on their own property.
The elected leaders haven’t done anything on such an ordinance - and probably won’t. Even so Baker’s request touched off a firestorm.
Second-hand smoke is offensive. I get that. I personally can’t stand it. But what is even more offensive is the hell-bent drive to sanitize society of anything the majority finds objectionable. Don’t like the idea that some people appear to be damaging their health by eating junk food? Ban it. Better yet tax it to oblivion. Object to people painting their houses fluorescent lime, and green with pink trim because it offends your sense of taste? Pass an ordinance restricting what colors you can paint a house.
The problem with ever codifying the request made by the Rocklin parent is it doesn’t simply open Pandora’s Box, it nukes it.
I lived for three years in Laurel Glenn Apartments in a second floor unit shaded by four towering redwood trees. I rarely shut my windows to my bedrooms whenever the temperature was over 60 degrees. I did not use air conditioning.
I had neighbors who would smoke. It would work its way up to the second floor and into the window. I did not complain. I simply shut the window for a few minutes.
But as much as I despised the cigarette smoke, what really got me was the almost endless barbecuing they’d do from late April to October. The BBQ smoke - 40 times more offensive and thicker than the cigarette smoke - would blow up into my windows. If I wasn’t at home, I’d enjoy the BBQ smell when I stepped through the front door hours later.
There was even one summer morning I was asleep on the balcony at 6 a.m. when they decided to barbecue steak for breakfast. I’d almost bet the carcinogens in the smoke from non-stop barbecuing was more dangerous than one or two cigarettes they puffed on during the day.
If Mr. Baker got his ban on neighbors being able to smoke on their own property, it would set the precedent for his next obvious target - outdoor barbecuing in your own yard.
I did not complain to the apartment complex manager. I simply coped with it and shut the window. I didn’t like the situation but there are indeed different strokes for different folks.
I could cite all sorts of studies - including from the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District - that tells you barbecuing isn’t exactly healthy for the air we breathe.
I also find unpleasant the trend for every place that sells food in Manteca to barbecue offerings outside. I don’t enjoy getting a whiff of barbecue smoke. Nor do I enjoy taking in a lung full of smoke from a chimney as I pass by a home on the sidewalk or second hand smoke floating though the air from an adjacent car when we both have our windows down at a traffic light.
But should stores barbecuing, smoking in your own car, or the use of fireplaces be completely banned? No way.
I’d rather have some personal discomfort and deal with the aggravations than have individual freedoms eroded to such a degree.
The banning of smoking in public places is one thing but banning it in someone’s own yard is another.
It’s not an issue of government trying to reach too far. It is a matter of individuals becoming 100 percent subservient to the dictates of government and the whims of the majority.
This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209-249-3519.