Lis & the Single Girl: Slippery Slope in Smoking Bans

Single and fabulous? Well then this is the column for you!

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Between work, working out, dating and maintaining a social life, it’s tough to find time to do much else. So, read up and prepare to be fully armed for brunch this weekend with your friends with some super conversation topics! Your pals will be amazed!

Gone are the glam days of smoking cigarettes out of a filter while baking in the sun — we know what damage smoking causes. But, secondhand smoke presents a problem as well.

Some even think it presents enough of a problem to ban smoking in people’s own apartments! Wow, take some time to let that idea sink in. In September 2007, officials in Belmont, Calif. gave final approval for a new smoking ban inside individual apartments and condominiums. This means that if your neighbors are complaining about secondhand smoke, you could be risking an eviction!

When the trend to protect non-smoker’s rights to breathe clean air first started, I understood and supported the smoking ban in enclosed public places such as restaurants and bars. However, as much as I believe non-smokers have the right to a smokeless environment, I wonder how far should that right extend? Has it gone too far when it’s affecting someone else’s private rights?

The Fifth Amendment’s “Takings” clause provides that “private property shall not be taken for public use, without just compensation.” In other words, the government can impose land-use regulations for the benefit of the public health or the greater public good, but can only do so if they compensate the owner for interfering with his or her enjoyment of private property.

Here, the problem is that smokers are not compensated even if their smoking privileges are taken away on their own property. This is because, when governments label something a “regulation,” that does not necessarily mean a court would find it to have amounted to a “taking” for which compensation must be paid.

Unsurprisingly, folks in Belmont are up in arms. Belmont city leaders have become targets of strong opposition, and even death threats. How can you tell smokers that a very legal activity is no longer legal on their own private space, and yet, justify that it does not amount to infringement of private property rights? I think, most disturbing of all, it’s an interference with our personal lifestyles. “My home is my castle” philosophy is seriously being challenged here!


• It's Official — Belmont Bans Smoking In Some Homes
• Calif. cities mull smoking ban for apartments


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Lis Wiehl joined FOX News Channel as a legal analyst in October 2001. To read the rest of Lis's bio, click here.