"Investor.” Art by Art Hazelwood

by Carol Denney

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]magine a committee meeting where California legislators gather to consider Assembly Bill 746, a proposal to protect people in multi-unit housing from secondhand smoke, a bill introduced by Assemblyman Marc Levine, a San Rafael Democrat.
Picture the table, the chairs, the people milling about shaking hands and making introductions. Imagine that there’s room for about 35 members of the public to sit and watch the proceedings.
Imagine that after 15 minutes of discussion, members of the public pull out packs of cigarettes, light up, and continues quietly listening while smoking.
There would be bedlam. Security would be called. People would be arrested. Legislators would rush from the room waving their hands wildly in a futile effort to disperse the smoke.
Even those who smoke themselves would recognize this as a terrible, life-threatening imposition on people’s right to breathe clean air. They’d find another meeting room, rope off the area, and scratch their heads at the unfathomable behavior they’d just encountered.
Consider how odd this behavior would be when, after the smokers are cleared from the room, they sit back down and, with the full blessing of the Western Center on Law and Poverty, many of them vote to allow smokers in multi-unit housing to continue to smoke indoors, forcing the whole building to smoke involuntarily: the pregnant women, the children, everyone.
The tobacco industry isn’t the main rock in the path toward clean, smoke-free air for the poorest tenants in California, the majority of whom don’t smoke and don’t want their families exposed.
The main rocks in the road are “social justice” representatives who worry about the imposition it might create for a smoker to use nicotine gum or step outside to avoid exposing the millions of low-income nonsmoking renters who can’t afford to move.
Tens of thousands of nonsmokers die each year because of the “social justice” rock in the road, the oddest allies the tobacco industry ever had.
Social justice groups are the rock in the road to smoke-free air, the oddest allies the tobacco industry ever had.