A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Beach tobacco ban: Show us the law

Written August 1st, 2014 by Hasso Hering
Does this place look like it needs a smoking ban?

Does this place look like it needs a smoking ban?

Before we get overly exercised about the proposal to ban smoking tobacco on Oregon beaches, we might want to ask: Where would the authority for such an action come from? And would a ban stand up in court if someone was charged with a violation of this imperial edict?

It was two years ago, in August 2012, that Gov. John Kitzhaber issued an executive order declaring certain state properties to be tobacco-free. He didn’t cite any authority in state law, perhaps because he assumed that since the state is the owner of state buildings, the governor counts as a landlord and can make the rules. No one challenged him because smoking is now considered so disgusting that no one would want to speak up and appear to be defending it.

Let’s be clear, though: Smoking may be a dirty, dangerous habit and no one should do it. But it’s not a crime; it’s perfectly legal and in fact the state gets a good chunk of tax revenue from taxpayers who ignore its no-smoking admonitions.

Kitzhaber’s executive order exempted the ocean beaches as well as highway rest areas. But it “encouraged'” the Oregon Parks and Recreation Commission to adopt “policies by December 31, 2014, that limits or restricts (sic) the use of tobacco products at state parks and recreation areas to address wellness issues, and to reduce the risk of forest fires.” None of this calls for a “smoking ban” on the beaches, even though that’s how the issue has been described in the press.

Suppose the parks commission does try to ban smoking tobacco. And suppose a benighted old man, sitting on a driftwood log, manages to light his pipe despite the stiff breeze whipping in from the sea. No one scanning the beach from a watch tower (we don’t even have lifeguard posts) and spotting the smoker through binoculars is going to send a patrol to give him a ticket. Though if that did happen, the guy should demand to know what law says he can’t light his pipe on the beach. (And if voters have legalized recreational marijuana by then, the tobacco ban would look even sillier and indefensible than it appears now.)

If I were on the parks commission, I would respond to the governor’s “encouragement” by adopting a policy to put up signs to add to all the other signs on public paths leading to the beach. The new signs would say: “Smoking is discouraged. So please don’t do it.” That would get the commission off the hook with Kitzhaber, assuming he’s still in office after this year. (hh)

2 responses to “Beach tobacco ban: Show us the law”

  1. Jim Clausen says:

    Be glad Kitz isn’t muslim and hasn’t made edicts such as in Iraq…

    “In Mosul, the Muslim members of ISIS have made a new decree in that if someone is caught smoking they will have their fingers cut off. One Iraqi Christian reported on this, writing,

    They will cut off your tongue if they don’t like what you say, and sever your fingers if they catch you smoking. According to sources in Mosul yesterday, a man was brutally attacked and tortured because he was wearing jeans, which to the IS is tantamount to wearing an U.S. Army uniform.

    So, what is the rest of the world doing about this?

    Well, world leaders are funding the opposition in Syria, including many of the same extremist groups that they claim America will combat in Iraq by supporting the Iraqi government.

    I am struggling to make any moral or human sense of it all.

    And here’s a good question: Why is the most powerful country in the world silent as Christianity is wrenched of its roots?

    As for me, I came to a point where I have concluded it’s not enough to bear witness anymore.

    On June 19 of this year, a young Assyrian who was forcibly deported from Sweden back to Iraq called me from a basement in Mosul. He was whispering. He told me to listen to the surrounding noise: men screaming “Taqbir!” and “Allah u Akbar!” It was ISIS invading his city.”


    This all begs the question, if Kitz has the ability to make such edicts into “law” as he has, would he be able to make laws such as above? After all, this is what those who dictate laws do…

  2. Jim Engel says:

    Simple solution to something of a “dirty habit”. In Army those who smoked were quickly taught to field strip the cig & tuck it into your pocket. Just being considerate. It comes down to “do ya give a damn about the next guy or not”. YOU packed it in YOU pack it out.

    The “law” does show how quickly, rather under handedly & all without an election we can be forced to obey decrees………JE


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