The other day the D.C. City Council Committee on Transportation and Environmental Affairs tried to come up with a "comprehensive" law prohibiting smoking in certain places. The intent of the law has merit: There are some places in town where people just shouldn't smoke. Elevators, theaters, hospitals and clinics are among the various sites that would be covered by the committee's proposed legislation, and there's reason to believe that such locations should come under the council's watchful eye. But the committee members took their charge one step too far, we think, by trying to prohibit smoking in any "area servicing as a place of work." That means that just about anywhere people work - which is pretty much everywhere - would be subject to the ban on smoking, if the committee has its way.
The prospect of prohibiting smoking in certain areas doesn't disturb us too much. Indeed, there are times when even serious smokers object to smoke-filled rooms, and there are a number of places where smoking isn't only a nuisance to some but a safety hazard to all. But regardless of the benefits of parts of the proposed measure, the entire bill should be rejected when it comes up for a vote in the council. The reason is simple. A ban on smoking in "work areas" just can't be enforced.
City residents, smokers or not, would be better served if the committee were instructed to revise its legislation and come up with a less ambitious measure that would ban smoking in certain places. Otherwise, the council risks passing a law that can't possibly be upheld.