Residents Banned From Smoking Outdoors On Their Own Property, as Well as Inside Residences

Smokers are being hit by a double whammy: more bans on smoking, including outdoors on their property, and even inside; and higher costs, including not just higher taxes, but also a $5,000 surcharge on health insurance premiums under Obamacare.
Feb. 27, 2012 - PRLog -- Smokers are being hit by a double whammy:
(A) ever spreading bans on smoking, including outdoors on their own property, and even inside their own private residences; and
(B) much higher costs, including not just escalating cigarette taxes, but also a $5,000 surcharge on their health insurance premiums under Obamacare.

These two movements - to protect nonsmokers from the health hazards of other people's tobacco smoke, and to force smokers to bear more of their fair share of the huge costs their smoking imposes on the American economy - are the two major factors helping smokers to quit, and are more effective than warnings on cigarette packs, antismoking educational campaigns, etc., says the public interest law professor responsible for both movements.

The California City of Rocklin is moving ahead with plans to prohibit residents from smoking outdoors even on their own property []; a logical extension of the smoking bans on sidewalks and even in parking lots which are rapidly spreading, the thousands of court orders in most states prohibiting parents from smoking inside their own homes, and laws in more than a dozen states which ban smoking in homes or cars when foster children are present - all growing out of the work of public interest law professor John Banzhaf, who called it a new paradign.

Meanwhile, the Affordable Healthcare Act has adopted a concept first pioneered by Banzhaf in authorizing a premium surcharge which could force smokers to pay $5,000 more than nonsmokers for health insurance.

More specifically, it authorizes a 50% surcharge which, when applied to a average total health care premium per employee for large companies of $10,475, results in a smoker surcharge of $5,237.  This surcharge, when added to the typical portion of the premium assessed against the individual employee of  $2,306, could more than triple a smoker's premium.

Interestingly, the new federal statute does not authorize higher premiums for other conditions such as obesity or lack of exercise, except as parts of so-called wellness programs, which may be difficult as well as expensive for small and even medium-sized employers to qualify for.  But, notes Banzhaf, no such requirements exist with regard to imposing a 50% surcharge on smokers.

Asbestos, benzene, and Polonium 210 are officially classified as "known human carcinogens," and so we do not permit residents to release them into the air on their balconies or lawns, or to release them into the air in their apartments or condos where they could drift or circulate to their neighbor's residences.  

Since secondhand tobacco smoke has exactly the same official carcinogenic classification, and each year kills more Americans (over 50,000) than all other regulated carcinogens, it seems entirely appropriate for Rocklin to ban smoking in backyards where the smoke can easily drift into neighboring properties or even onto public sidewalks which are used by all citizens, including the elderly and those with respiratory and other conditions which make them especially susceptible to smoke, suggests Banzhaf.

Asked then where people can go to smoke if they can't smoke inside their residences or outdoors on their property, Banzhaf notes that when he helped persuade Calabasas to ban smoking outdoors on sidewalks and in many other outdoor areas, the City established what it called "smoker outposts" far away from other members of the public where smokers could indulge themselves.

He suggests that establishing separate areas when people can engage in other activities which may also endanger - or even just annoy - other people is nothing new, since it has long been done for those who wish to ride trail motor cycles, discharge firearms, set off fireworks, race their cars, sunbathe in the nude, or even skateboard or listen to loud music

Since smoking costs the American economy about $300 billion a year [$jBCet$lOxy2QCt/], most of which is paid by nonsmokers in the form of higher taxes (for Medicare, Medicaid, Indian and veterans' benefits, etc.) as well as ever-escalating medical care costs, it is only fair that smokers be asked to contribute more of their fair share, argues Banzhaf, noting that smokers have long paid more for their life insurance, and that those who choose to drive expensive cars may pay more for their insurance.

Indeed, notes Banzhaf, in a legal proceeding in which he participated, and in which testimony about costs was presented under oath and subject to cross examination, the judge ruled that the smoking of a single employee can add more than $12,000 each year in costs (in 2011 dollars, adjusted for inflation) for that employer - costs which would have to come from reducing health, salary, or other benefits to the great majority of workers who are nonsmokers.  If the employer is a governmental unit, as was true in that case, taxpayers may be forced to pay higher taxes to subsidize the smoking employee's habit.

"There have been remarkable changes in public attitudes towards smoking in just the last few years," says Banzhaf, with increased public support for even drastic steps like refusing to hire smokers, prohibiting them from adopting children, denying them operations, not letting them smoke even in their own rooms when confined in hospitals or psychiatric facilities, and forcing them to pay more to remain smokers.  

Surveys show that nonsmokers are increasingly saying, in effect: "He's Your Monkey, Keep Him Off My Back."

Professor of Public Interest Law
George Washington University Law School,
FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor,
Fellow, World Technology Network,
Founder, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
2000 H Street, NW, Suite S402
Washington, DC 20052, USA
(202) 994-7229 // (703) 527-8418

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John F. Banzhaf III is a Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University Law School [] where he is best known for his work regarding smoking, obesity, discrimination, food and auto safety, political corruption, etc.
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