Does the modest increase in gun regulation proposed by the White House today seem too crazy to comprehend? Here is how quickly big things can change: In the not so long ago era of Bill Clinton’s second term and “Friends,” when the Drudge Report was what the old people already had as their home page, you could still smoke almost anywhere in California. Restaurants, bars, concert venues, the beach, outside elementary schools. And then the No Smoking laws came to pass, and despite threats of violence by rednecks, within a few months it was all over. Short-lived protests like the “private clubs” that some Central Valley truck stops formed to allow their customers to relax in a haze of cigarette toxins were soon forgotten, just as New York City’s ban on bar smoke went from “Oh no the drunkards are causing trouble in the streets because they have to share a Camel Light or a clove outside” to simply being the way we live now—meaning, the privileged continue to light up in expensive sleazebag discos, while humbler establishments get hassled by the smoking police.
When the bar ban went into effect in 1998, nearly one in five Californian adults smoked cigarettes. Now, it’s closer to one-in-ten, with only 11% of Californians smoking. There were other trends at work, from the higher smoking rates of immigrants from Asia and Eastern Europe to the crushingly regular recessions to higher taxes per pack, but it is hard to argue with the results of the anti-smoking campaigns. The national percentage for tobacco use is 19%.
As of Tuesday in San Francisco, you also cannot smoke at outdoor public events. There will be signs, and announcements! People will complain, and then in a few months, they’ll quit smoking at outdoor public events. When the will of the populace is formalized into law, it generally works.
Photo by Tinou Bao.