New smoking policy may go too far

July 12, 2011 Commentary Print Print
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As of Aug. 1 of this year, OCCC will be a tobacco-free campus. There are a variety of issues concerning this — not the least of which is the fact that the college is trying to dictate our choices.

Yes, there are valid reasons for the ban. But, is the ban too far reaching?

The smoking ban will extend to individuals smoking in their private vehicles while on campus, with fines that must be paid downtown as a penalty.

 

This is ridiculous, even if it is possibly legal due to the gray area that occurs when one’s private property is parked on someone else’s private property.

What a person does in their vehicle, on their time, is subject only to one restriction: that it not be illegal. And as of this time, smoking is not.

Federal and constitutional law establish that a peace officer may only enter or search your vehicle if they have permission or reason to believe that something illegal is occurring.

Further, the police cannot uphold traffic laws on private property, can only enter private property with a valid search warrant or on strong probable cause, and do not enforce laws related to public behavior on private property as long as the behavior is not on display to the public.

To be clear: not even the police can interfere on private property unless something illegal is being done and even then, they have to have direct evidence or a warrant.

But now, the campus can penalize its students and employees for doing something legal in their own vehicles? Where does this power come from, exactly? And how is it justified?

State law declares that a viable option for smoking in a workplace or restaurant is to create an area of the building with a separate ventilation system, sealed away from the building as a whole.

A car is a micro-environment, with seals that close it off from the world and an internal ventilation system. Roll up the windows, hit the AC and voíla, instant smoking environment.

But perhaps the worst part of these fines is the message they send: that authority figures have the power and the right to make your decisions for you.

It says anyone given authority can choose to disregard personal choice in the interest of common welfare, regardless of whether the behavior involved is illegal. And it means if they want to treat you like a child, and slap you on the wrist for making a decision they disagree with, they can and will.

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