Howard County Outdoor Smoking Ban Goes Too Far

Howard County executive Ken Ulman is right. Smoking is "a dirty, filthy habit." But it also happens to be legal. Ulman is joining New York and other localities in banning smoking cigarettes in county parks. "The vast majority of Howard County does not smoke," Dr. Peter Beilenson told The Sun. "Public property is meant to be enjoyed by the majority."

James Madison warned about the tyranny of the majority. Another smoking cigarettes restriction is not tyranny, but it looks like discrimination. Indoor smoking cigarettes is a health hazard. I'm glad newsrooms aren't filled with cancer fumes anymore. But there is little evidence that secondhand outdoor smoke cigarettes harms anybody. Even the scientists who research this stuff are a little amazed at what's going on. Here's what Boston University public health professor Michael Siegel wrote in the NYT:

Inevitably, smoking cigarettes-ban opponents ask me, “What’s next, banning smoking cigarettes outdoors?” My answer has always been no: not only can people move around and thus avoid intense exposure, but smoke cigarettes quickly disperses in the open air.

Now, to be philosophically consistent, Howard County has to outlaw public park campfires and barbecues, too.