Ideas for stories, they’re all around — the familiar ground fiction writers sometimes avoid, dismissing it as boring. Events witnessed daily, how interesting can they be?
Very. And why not? We’re surrounded by stories — bits of everyday life — and I found one (albeit not brand new) near my office in Calabasas, California.
You may have heard of the California smoking ban. We Californians are many things, and one of them is big on clean air.
If you smoke outdoors in Calabasas you get fined. First city to prohibit outdoor smoking in the state (a few cities followed suit), if you don’t count the beach of Solano.
SMOKE FREE CITY — CALABASAS
But in Calabasas we’re talking sidewalks, outdoor patios, or any other public areas. Don’t even think about striking that match or lighter.
The law came into effect in 2008, and aside from some celebrities, no one made the news for being caught smoking outdoors — yet.
What do you pay for breaking the law? A violation of the ordinance may result in fines up to $500 for repeat offenses and misdemeanor charge, or both. Steep fine?
Whatever your opinion on smoking, I find the law in this particular city interesting, and I’ll tell you why.
I don’t smoke, and I don’t appreciate people lighting up near me without bothering to ask if I’m okay with it. But no one really smokes in public places these days. Not in California, the state with one of the toughest antismoking laws in the nation.
But here is why the ordinance strikes me as interesting. By passing the law, Calabasas is not only trying to keep the air clean, but is presumably trying to teach us that second hand smoking is a toxic air contaminant, leading to asthma, cancer, heart disease and death.
So, we have a stringent anti-smoking law, and with it many lessons, in a city located a mile away from … two legal pot shops.
That’s right, drive up Ventura Boulevard (Woodland Hills), just another mile or so, and you’ll find the first marijuana dispensary. The second one is within walking distance. These are for health purposes, mind you, and no one buys pot without a doctor’s prescription.
Yeah, good luck enforcing that one. But that’s another point for another blog post.
Sure, the dispensaries don’t allow outdoors smoking either, but what a different philosophy in a neighborhood that is more or less one big area.
No big deal, right? Two different municipalities and two ordinances — one supported by the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, etc., and driven by the need for clear air at any cost. The second is driven by … free enterprise, the right to use what one’s heart pleases, money, state taxes. And more money.
A boundary line separates two cities, yet from a smoking/non-smoking perspective they are a world apart. And I’m sure there is a longer story in there somewhere.
So, what do you think? Has California gone too far/not far enough? Is it counterproductive to teach kids not to smoke then drive down Ventura Boulevard — a mile away from home — where a different form of smoking is not only allowed, but legal?