Tobacco, Virginia State Sen. Charles Hawkins reminded folks last week, is "a legal crop." But the places where you can legally use it are quickly being stubbed out. Hawkins's fellow senators--in the heart of tobacco country, no less--approved a statewide smoking ban in bars, restaurants and most public enclosed places. Though it will face tough opposition in the House, "it's a breakthrough," says state Sen. Brandon Bell.
And not one that's limited to Virginia. Nationwide, a dozen states have passed comprehensive nonsmokers' rights laws. New measures similar to Virginia's are now being considered in Colorado, Maryland and South Carolina. Last month the American Lung Association announced its Smokefree Air 2010 Challenge to strengthen laws to protect people against secondhand smoke. (Across the pond, England also just voted to ban indoor smoking.)
Some cities are even addressing outdoor smoking. Lawmakers in Calabasas, Calif., last week banned it on streets and sidewalks and in parking lots and restaurant patios. Instead, smokers will use small "smokers' outposts." In 18 states, smoking can be raised in child-custody disputes. "Here we are literally reaching into the last frontier--right into the home," says John Banzhaf, executive director of the anti-smoking group Action on Smoking and Health. "No longer can you argue, 'My home is my castle. I've got the right to smoke'."