Ah, California, land of the dumbest laws in the country.

The internet has spent the last few weeks mercilessly mocking San Francisco’s plastic straw ban. The city ordinance carries hefty fines and even jail time for violators.

 Anyway, as Reason points out, the ordinance is not limited to plastic straws, but also includes “plastic splash sticks, toothpicks, and cocktail sticks, which would have to include those little swords and umbrellas.”

Other straw bans typically target food service businesses, but this one will prohibit anyone, including grocery stores and other retailers, from selling plastic straws.

“The negative environmental impacts of single-use plastics are astronomical,” bill sponsor Katy Tang said in a statement. “San Francisco has been a pioneer of environmental change, and it’s time for us to find alternatives to the plastic that is choking our marine ecosystems and littering our streets.”

Like all good straw bans, the text of Tang’s bill mentions the questionable statistic that Americans use 500 million straws a day. This statistic comes from a unconfirmed 2011 phone survey of straw manufacturers conducted by a 9-year-old. Market analysts think the actual number is far lower.

Violators of San Francisco’s plastic straw/sword ban will face between $100 and $500 in fines, depending on the number of violations. While an explicit exemption for disabled people—many of whom lack the motor skills to drink or eat without a straw—is not included, the bill does say that “strict compliance” with the law is not required when it would “interfere with accommodating for any person’s medical needs.”

This makes it less punitive than the straw ban in nearby Santa Barbara, which has no disability exemption and even allows for the possibility of criminal sanctions. In other ways, though, San Francisco’s straw ban is quite restrictive. Unlike Seattle’s straw ban, for example, San Francisco’s does not allow straws made from most compostable bioplastics.

But hey, at least it’s not Santa Barbara where repeat straw violators could be slapped with jail time.

The assumption that plastic straws will save the planet is hilariously linked to a 9-year-old’s unscientific phone survey to straw manufacturers. But let’s jail all the straw-soliciting waiters anyway!


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