If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
̴ Old Proverb
The proverb about how everything looks like a nail to one who only has a hammer is a reference to how single-minded people with limited tools will apply them inappropriately and indiscriminately.
This is precisely how liberals, like some on the Manhattan Beach City Council, view the heavy hand of government regulation. To them, big government, and more of it, is the solution to any and every issue, no matter if the issue is local or extends well beyond the city limits, even globally like climate change.
But is the purpose of our city's government to threaten local small businesses with financial ruin?
Apparently, a majority of the City Council thinks so.
On Tuesday, they took up their latest cause du jour for saving the planet - tobacco and vaping - and voted 4-1 (with Suzanne Hadley the lone voice of reason) to ban not just vaping products but all tobacco products for sale in Manhattan Beach.
Such a ban will seriously damage the business prospects and even threaten the survival of a number of local mom-and-pop retailers, some of whom spoke at Tuesday's Council meeting about how a significant percentage of their profits is tied to the sale of tobacco products, both directly and indirectly (usually, when someone comes in to buy a pack of cigarettes, they buy other items as well).
These are local business people, many of whom are immigrants, who have been good corporate citizens, worked hard to build their businesses over many years, played by the rules and paid their taxes.
None of that matters to the indifferent nanny-staters on City Council. Their message? We're on a mission to protect the environment and to protect people from themselves so if our tobacco ban causes you, Mr. or Ms. Local Retailer, to have to close up shop, well, don't let the door with the "Going out of business" sign hit ya where the good Lord split ya.
Now we here at Real Estate Edge would never come to the defense of smoking, a terrible habit that your author is very qualified to discuss, having succumbed to it in his youth (hey, I grew up in Virginia, a tobacco state, cut me some slack) and, after almost 9 years of addiction, kicked the habit (it wasn't easy).
But I never blamed the local cigarette retailers for my youthful addiction. It was my choice to start smoking and it was my choice to stop. Even when I started smoking early (tobacco was more readily available and at younger ages back then), I knew it was bad for me, as did everyone else I knew in high school that smoked.
Today, the kids are already well-versed through their schools and teachers and public service announcements (and hopefully their parents as well) in the harmful effects of tobacco and vaping. Furthermore, they are prohibited by law from purchasing tobacco and vaping products under the age of 21 (although they can get the latter on-line via Amazon) and our local merchants are very responsible, checking IDs and cooperating with authorities in shoulder-tap stings.
But if you're over 21, you can legally buy these products, if not here, then in one of the nearby surrounding communities. As Council person Hadley correctly noted about a proposed ban on tobacco sales in Manhattan Beach:
It's hard enough to make an honest living in California these days and I will be voting not to deprive these businesses of tobacco customers. We are not taking away tobacco sales, we're taking away tobacco customers.
Such a simple point yet completely dismissed by Council's unsympathetic true believers.
But let's press on.
What about the environment, you say? These days it's critical for liberals to bring up the environment every chance they get in order to confer a false sense of moral legitimacy to their proposed governmental overreach.
Yet all we heard at the Council meeting was complaints about cigarette butts on the beach.
Now we at Real Estate Edge have always supported Manhattan Beach's ban on public smoking. But here enforcement leaves something to be desired, particularly at the beach.
Smoking on the beach has been banned for over a decade (since October, 2004, to be precise) with no significant improvement in the butt count (we're talking cigarette butts here, stay with us). To be fair, Council person Montgomery made a similar point.
The reality is that with a tobacco ban in place here in Manhattan Beach, beach-going smokers will simply buy their cigarettes elsewhere and still smoke on our beach, absent a credible enforcement deterrent. Duh!
But before we get to what we believe is the real underlying rationale for this issue, let's recount the best and the worst lines we heard at last Tuesday's meeting.
Best line - Suzanne Hadley
I didn’t vote for the legalization of marijuana but I was outvoted, marijuana’s legal and now all of a sudden a cigar for Vince Vaughn at MB Smoke Shop is our biggest problem. So honestly the world is upside down.
Worst line - Steve Napolitano, explaining why a ban on tobacco sales is different from, say, a ban on the sale of an equally if not more dangerous substance, alcohol.
If alcohol was just like tobacco, though, it’d be called tobacco.
Gee, Steve, thanks for clearing that up.
But, as we've seen above, there is little to no practical benefit to either people or the environment from a local prohibition on the sale of tobacco products. So what's the real purpose of the tobacco ban?
Folks, this is what's known as the sentimentalization of public policy. It's government policy based on what makes woke liberals feel good, rather than a realistic assessment of what is likely to happen as a result of their policies. Over and over again, we heard from Napolitano, Stern and Hersman that we have to do something! Anything!
What you end up with is moral posturing elites forcing the less-enlightened among us, including those adult smokers who clearly don't know what's best for them, into the elites' new world vision because it makes the elites feel good. Said Hildy Stern, "We all know if we looked at the world that we want to see, we know that we would want to see a world that is absent smoking." (Cue John Lennon's "Imagine").
Forget the fact that a tobacco ban will not stop a single smoker from smoking or from purchasing their cigarettes elsewhere. I know, I've been there.
But since we're all supposed to aspire to this new woke world order, let's put a real-world face to that new order and to the effects of Council's actions, shall we?
Meet the Kim family, the owners (for 17 years) of the Manhattan Beach market downtown. Their family's income will be drastically impacted by the elimination of tobacco sales.
Just another casualty of the nanny state run amok in order to make our City Council feel as though they are making the world a better place, even as they deprive some people of their personal liberties while depriving others of the opportunity to make a living from businesses they and their families spent years creating.
And for one of MB Smoke's cohiba-loving customers, Vince Vaughn, it appears we'll eventually be saying "Close(d), but no cigar."
UPDATE: On November 5, the City Council enacted an emergency ordinance banning the sale of vaping and flavored tobacco products while allowing retailers who currently sell these products to apply for a temporary hardship extension, the length of the extension to be determined on a case-by-case basis.
More to come down the road when Council considers banning the sale of all tobacco products within city limits.
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