Among other environmental concerns, San Luis Obispo city ordinance Section 8, Chapter 8.22, the ban on smoking cigarettes, addressed second-hand smoke downtown. As a 15-year resident of the city, and as a smoker, I have watched as smoking has declined significantly. I believe the ordinance to be good for the city.
Therefore, it came as little surprise to me when I was spotted by a member of the S.L.O. Police Department smoking in front of the CVS store on Marsh Street and subsequently received a ticket for breaking the ordinance. My choice to smoke relates to my diagnosis with bipolar affective disorder. I use smoking as a relief for my condition. It calms my nerves and offers a chance to take a break from the routine of days. This, however, hardly makes me unique.
Obviously, smoking continues in the city with or without Chapter 8.22. On Jan. 1, 2013, a police car approached me in the CVS parking lot with two people aboard, an officer and her supervisor, as she was still in training. I was dressed ordinarily, did not look indigent or even mildly threatening. But the officers basically treated me as if I were a serious offender. This seems unnecessary and excessive.
As Sharon Stone once said in the movie Basic Instinct, I thought to myself, “What are you going to do? Arrest me for smoking?” Although this was unlikely, the entire incident seems laughable. The police officers of this city often do not deal well with minor infractions of the law in their treatment of the homeless, the mentally ill, and anyone deemed a nuisance. And people who use a legal, proliferative product ought not be treated as serious offenders.