Josh Goodman is a former staff writer for GOVERNING..E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The battleground over smoking restrictions is shifting from bars and restaurants to cars and the great outdoors.
Calabasas, California, began enforcing one of the nation's most sweeping smoking laws in March, a regulation forbidding anyone from lighting up in any public place where others can be exposed to secondhand smoke. In April, the Arkansas legislature approved a bill, which Governor Mike Huckabee signed, to curb smoking in cars with young children inside.
The goal of the new rules, backers say, is to change behavior, not punish smokers. As of early May, Calabasas had not issued a single citation under its law, and Arkansas waives fines for first-time violators who attend smoking-cessation courses.
Although the actions by Calabasas and Arkansas are atypical, they may reflect a growing trend. Most notably, the California Air Resources Board deemed tobacco smoke a pollutant earlier this year, a move that could portend statewide restrictions on smoking that extend far beyond workplaces and indoor settings.
The new restrictions occur at a time when smoking is declining nationwide. Last year, per capita tobacco consumption fell to its lowest level since the 1930s, which could have an adverse short-term impact on state budgets. Under the 1998 tobacco settlement, the payments states receive from tobacco companies are linked to sales. Leading tobacco companies withheld hundreds of millions of dollars in expected payments this year, citing, among other reasons, declining sales. As of April, more than 15 states had announced they were suing to press their case for the disputed funds.
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